Category Archives: Spotlight

Wonder & Wickedness draws near

wonder wickedness titleSoon, if all goes well, Lost Pages will release my sorcery supplement, Wonder & Wickedness.

The book will contain:

  • 56 spells divided into seven specialties
  • 50 enchanted treasures
  • 84 sorcerous catastrophes (12 each for 7 kinds of magic)
  • New illustrations by Russ Nicholson
  • Sorcery rules: spells without levels, spell duels, and more

The text is done and layout progresses, about 90 A5 pages. We are working on a small number of hand-bound hardcovers as well.

The spells and several of the enchanted items have appeared before on this blog, though I have modified a few of them. All of the catastrophes and the bulk of enchanted items are new.

We do not have an official release date yet, but hope to have this available before the end of december.

Biological imagination

Orc Stain is a book by James Stokoe put out by Image Comics during the period from 2010 to 2012. There were only seven issues, and the story was left unfinished. Thank Pearce for drawing my attention to this during some G+ conversation about comics. Though this post is image-heavy, I have barely scratched the surface. Similar quality can be found on average at least every second or third page.

There is so much raw creativity here it is hard to know where to start. The protagonist orc One-Eye has a knack with a hammer. He can see faults in just about anything, and knows exactly where to hit and with how much force in order to make something fall apart.

2014-11-26 18.08.42 orc stain

The detail work is amazing (pencil example from the author’s blog). The entire series is cast in a distinctive green, purple, magenta, red palette which is like seeing the world through a bruise-tinted lens.

2014-11-04 20.22.07 orc stain

The best part though? It is the amoebic, organic quality to everything. This extends from the depiction of tools and technology to the texture of everyday objects. Birds are axes. Safes live. An orcish telephone is a person strung up like a puppet who transmits information over cables by twitching (or something).

2014-11-04 17.37.23 orc stain

2014-11-04 20.21.14 orc stain

The raw and sometimes gory action goes down smoothly because of the humor. This is no grimdark mire. Similarly with sexuality. The orcs have love nymphs in bondage and their currency uses petrified genitalia. That’s right, there is plenty of orc dick to be seen here and the funny thing is that it’s so skillfully woven into the setting, story, and humor that it doesn’t seem excessive or out of place. When you read it, it’s just like: yup, orcs.

2014-11-04 17.45.30 orc stain

2014-11-04 17.46.26 orc stain

2014-11-05 11.47.47 orc stain

Bowie the poison thrower (clearly played by Helena Bonham Carter)

2014-11-05 11.48.05 orc stain

Though the series is premised on inverting fantasy cliches, it does not accomplish this by presenting traditionally monstrous creatures as misunderstood and unfairly vilified, as is often done. Orcish culture as shown is rather terrible, but amusingly and endearingly so, even when (sometimes especially when) it veers off into absurd cruelty and ultra-violence.

2014-11-26 18.18.07 orc stain

On Twitter, on November 15th of this year, the author wrote that he had finally finished inking issue 8, so it looks like there is hope that Orc Stain has not been completely abandoned, though it probably makes sense to calibrate expectations due to the rate of release so far.

2014-11-26 18.06.35 orc stain

You can buy issues digitally from Comixology, which is what I did. Because of the Image policy on DRM, this also means that you get unencumbered PDF versions in addition to the “guided view” feature available in their native reader (which is quite nice).

Highly recommended if you like anything you have seen here even a little bit.

OSRCon 2014 Toronto

The fourth annual OSRCon is going to be held in Toronto again this year. Unfortunately, I will not be in town when it will be going on, but I attended the past two, and enjoyed both. In the first, I played a magic-user that explored Dwimmermount. In the second, I played a Pathfinder adaptation of White Plume Mountain and ran an OD&D game set in the Fight On! community mega-dungeon, The Darkness Beneath.

My understanding is that this years event will be far more casual, more like a game day, without panels or guest speakers. The details are being coordinated on a Google Plus community, and the specific event can be found here. It is happening on saturday, august 23rd. So far, I see LotFP, AD&D, Basic D&D, and DCC games already scheduled. I wish I could make it.

OSRCon 4 2014 IMG_4762

Detect Magic

Detect Magic is a blog by Daniel Davis, just started this year. If I had to select an appropriate pigeonhole or tagline, I might say: “older D&D through the lens of Apocalypse World with lots of useful tools and also rules hacks,” though like all such summaries that sells it somewhat short. If those things are your bag (and they are certainly mine), I would recommend heading over there to check it out and maybe adding it to your regular reading list and/or blogroll. Old standby blogs are regularly slowing down or ceasing posts entirely, so it is always good to see new folks jumping in.

Here are some posts you might want to start with:

  • Faction wars procedure
  • Conquest: making control of territory a gameable thing
  • Fisticuffs: dueling or brawling for trad D&D using stakes setting
  • Pathcrawl: an interesting wilderness exploration procedure

Also many of the table sets are automated using Logan’s excellent generator of generators.

Lusus Naturae

Monstruct color draft

Lusus Naturae’s monstruct

My favorite new RPG book that came out in 2013 was perhaps Rafael Chandler’s Teratic Tome. I do not know why I have not written more about it before, but I should. It is fantastically creative and professionally done. In addition to being probably my favorite new RPG book of 2013, it is also one of my favorite bestiaries in general, up there with the Fiend Folio and the Bard Games Atlantis Bestiary. For me, it has only one real flaw, which is that the physical production (being a print on demand “casebound” hardcover) is only middle tier. Would it not be fantastic if Rafael were able to produce a monster book to a higher physical production standard? Well, Lusus Naturae will be that.

The name means “freaks of nature,” and it is intended to be a collection of 100 horror-themed monsters for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (and thus compatible with most traditional fantasy RPGs). This thing has already funded, so there is very little doubt that it will exist later this year (and Rafael has been one of the most reliable producers of small press RPG material recently, so risks on that front, even of mere delays, seem minimal). Needless to say, I have backed it. There are several more days to go, and if it hits $16660 before then, all the images will be done in color (this is the only stretch goal, though Rafael was recently wondering if he should maybe do something else special if the project reaches 666 backers).

I should also probably mention that the Teratic Tome is now pay what you want in PDF. So if you are not familiar yet with Rafael’s work and want to see what you might be in for with Lusus Naturae, you can check that out. Not directly related, but if you are interested in the above mentioned Bard Games Atlantis Bestiary, the Sorcerer’s Skull has a post about that.

Contest winners

NIN Closer video frame

NIN Closer video frame

At the end of last year, I held a contest where the theme was the Nine Inch Nails song “The Becoming.” I got some submissions. Then I took a long time to actually read and evaluate all of them (apologies!), but as of last week the winners were determined and notified. Prizes were ordered and mailed out. If you did not win, thanks in any case for participating.

First place goes to Mark S. for his Black Ziggurat. Mark chose a copy of the 2013 LotFP Rules & Magic hardcover. The Black Ziggurat is a fantasy bronze age dungeon module which is filled with creative hazards and memorable details. The setting itself is a nice change of pace, without being too alien (it could easily be used as a ruin in a more traditional fantasy setting). The traps, even when they are reminiscent of old standbys, are presented with interesting variations (for example, consider The chamber of spears we guard for eternity, which is a great play on the classics of animating skeletons and spear traps). The theme of transformation is also nicely realized through the person of Naaresh the sorcerer, who was changed by his contact with the void (and effects related to this show up in numerous places within the module as well). Overall, an excellent effort that I think would be good for several sessions of play, and all of it fits on 4 letter-sized pages. There are not many ways I can think of to improve this as a module. If I had to pick something, I would say maybe a few more unique monsters would spice it up.

Second place goes to John M. for his Millennial Worm. John chose a copy of the Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities book. This adventure scenario focuses on the final stage of a dimension-hopping worm’s life cycle. The creature itself is also the adventure location. In addition to the concept itself, there are some interesting mechanics presented for how to actually handle adventuring inside a giant creature. This is not a case of just calling room one of the dungeon “the stomach” and leaving it at that, which I appreciate. Each area also has a mechanical “shift effect.” As for potential improvements, though all the encounters are atmosphereic and creative, the dungeon map itself is somewhat simplistic and linear. I do not know if this is really avoidable though, as the design is somewhat constrained by how digestive systems work. Perhaps some map complexity could be introduced by creating a more fantastic anatomy or integrating built structures into the creature’s body. (Note: if you print this one out, you probably only want to print the first nine pages, as everything after that is license legalese.)

Several other entries can be found on other blogs:

Discussion of other submissions will have to wait for a future post, however.

New 52 Wonder Woman

Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman

Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman

The most recent revamp of Wonder Woman is one of the most enjoyable comics I’ve come across in a while. It reads like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman by way of Image’s recent Saga. I first noticed the series because of this fantastic cover (issue 24, october 2013), and promptly burned through the first three collected volumes on Comixology in two days. It is, so far, the only comic other than Rat Queens that I have considered buying individual issues of as they come out, rather than waiting for the inevitable compilations.

There is a kind of Lichtensteinian feeling to the art that is reminiscent of some stylized comic golden age, but it also feels recent and fresh (I think this is because of the color and writing). The character designs are also continuously enjoyable. I found myself looking forward to how each of the Olympians would be realized (the only one that I didn’t really care for was Poseidon). For a flagship book, there is a surprising amount of graphic violence, including a horse’s head being severed with a centaur’s upper body erupting from the hole, and Diana’s arms drenched to the elbow in blood from combat. That said, it somehow manages to avoid seeming gratuitous and instead supports a sense of mythological seriousness. In fact, I would say that the art by Cliff Chiang is almost without misstep. The work by Tony Akins (issue 13, 14, and 17, at least) is not as successful for me, and Goran Sudzuka does the penciling for some of the newer issues that I haven’t gotten to yet, and so can’t speak to, but overall the art situation is pretty amazing.

The story itself does not read like a superhero book, which to me is a positive. I have warmed slightly to the superhero genre, but in general I prefer other types of story. As I mentioned above, Gaiman’s Sandman is actually the first thing that I though of when reading through the recent Wonder Woman. This is the story of the interactions of cosmic personalities, many of which are not clearly heroes of villains (though Apollo serves as a main villain proxy to some extent). Like the Olympians of mythology, the dominant feature of most of these characters is a sort of myopic selfishness coupled with tremendous power. There’s also some situational humor that I appreciate (mostly involving Hera).

I will leave you with a few image selections. All images are scaled screen captures from the digital Comixology compilations.


Cliff Chiang's Hades

Cliff Chiang’s Hades

Cliff Chiang's Hera

Cliff Chiang’s Hera

Wonder Woman with a Lara Croft Vibe

Wonder Woman with a Lara Croft Vibe

One Page Dungeon Contest 2014

Bygrinstow's Arena of Blood

Bygrinstow’s Arena of Blood

The time has come again. This year, the torch has been passed from Alex Schroeder, who ran the contest for the last few years, to Random Wizard.

I think most people would agree that the results of the previous One Page Dungeon contests have been some of the most interesting content to come out of the DIY RPG community. Also, because of the terms of the contest, everything must be creative commons licensed, and thus free to use and remix, which ends up being a tremendous resource. Visit the new domain for visualizations (such as slideshows) of the previous entries and winners.

There is a new domain with more info. The deadline this year is April 30, 2014. This is a 100% volunteer and community effort, so it will be as good as we make it.

Dust off your graph paper and spread the word.

Break!! RPG

Reynaldo M. (of Akenia and Barovania) and Grey Wiz (of Mysterious Path) are teaming up to create an RPG. Full disclosure: I sometimes play in Rey’s online games.

Break!! will likely be familiar in many ways to players of traditional fantasy RPGs (for example, there are checks, saves, and contests; I bet you can guess about how all those things work without any explanation). There are some interesting variations, however, such as ability scores being replaced by a trait system. Which is not to mention the wonderful, vaguely JRPG aesthetic projected by the art of Grey Wiz:

Game Master Book concept (source)

Game Master Book cover concept (source)

And check out this slick layout mockup:

Break!! RPG Character Creation (source)

Break!! RPG Character Creation concept (source)

I am certainly going to keep my eye on this.

Final Fantasy IV iOS

Final Fantasy IV (originally released as FF II in the west) just recently became available (iTunes store link) for iOS. It’s on sale right now at $8 for I’m not sure how long (which is 50% off, I think). The sequel Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is also coming to iOS sometime this november, which means I don’t have to pick up a PS Vita at some point to play it. Final Fantasy IV was #5 in my Appendix NES list.

This is a remake with new graphics, not just a port, which has both upsides and downsides. I haven’t played that much of it yet, but the controls are excellent. The old sprites left more to the imagination than the new 3D character models, which detract from the mood somewhat, but that is just a minor complaint.

This is probably my second favorite Final Fantasy game (VI being the best), and IV might have an even more inspirational setting for tabletop RPGs. Something about the setting of VI seems more appropriate for the telling of an epic story, whereas I can more easily see adventurers exploring the lands of IV. Also, IV has underworld tank dwarves (Google image search pointed me to Papers & Pencils, hah).

VI will also supposedly be coming as an iOS remake (finally!), if the IV games do well.


Final Fantasy IV iOS remake (personal iPad screen captures):

IMG_0438 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0439 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0440 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0441 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0446 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0449 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0451 Final Fantasy IV iOS

IMG_0452 Final Fantasy IV iOS

Original SNES presentation, for comparison:

SNES Final Fantasy IV (source)

SNES Final Fantasy IV (source)