Wednesday, February 28, 2007

He's A Special Little Snowflake, That Mike, He Is.

"I've been cyberstalking you on your blog and you haven't updated in a while," said Mike, a dude with whom I work. "What's up with that?"

Okay, Mike, here's a post just for you. It's about paper gaming miniatures, though, so you'd better like paper gaming miniatures.

Check it. T. Jordan "Greywolf" Peacock created a bunch of True-Type fonts which allow you to print out paper minis by the ton. Fantasy, SF, anthropomorphic animals, even starships. Yowza! They're freebies, and I say go download 'em.

Oh. They're not colored, but any goofball with a paint program and three brain cells to rub together can produce extra-awesome colory minis like the ones you see here. Then print 'em out on cardstock, fold 'em up, and avast!

Greywolf isn't the only guy what makes with the paper minis. Everyone here knows about S. John Ross' Sparks, except maybe Mike, but now that I've linked to it he really has no excuse.

Miniature Wargaming has some stuff, too -- historicals, western, vehicles even. And the Warrenton Area Game Club's paper minis will keep you busy for hours with figs like these:

I better see some 2D Space Marines on your desk, Mike. Else I won't think you're stalking me right.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Memories Of Things That Never Happened

I was reading the Wiki page on Gary Numan this morning and, as often happens, I started following outward links (that's how I know that Jesse Venture lives in Mexico now). I hit a page about the New Romantic culture of the late 70's, early 80's, and I read this passage:

The genre's genesis took place largely through clubs such as Billy's in Dean Street, London, which ran David Bowie and Roxy Music nights in the aftermath, evolving into the highly successful and elitist Blitz Club in Great Queen Street and later Hell, which were hosted by Steve Strange who was also the doorman and Rusty Egan who was the DJ and in many ways defined the sound of the movement. Boy George was the cloakroom attendant. The club spawned a hundred suburban spin-offs in, around and outside London, among which were Croc's in Rayleigh, Essex, and The Regency in Chadwell Heath, where Depeche Mode and Culture Club had their debut gigs as fledgling bands, the movement rapidly spread as far as Barbarella's Club in Birmingham, while it was still underground, shaping the newly formed Duran Duran. (From the Wiki)

Reading this made me...melancholic. It made me yearn for those days, those names, those clubs. That experience.

That experience, which I never had.

I was born in 1974. By the time I was old enough to go to clubs, two things had happened:

  1. Grunge was The Thing; and
  2. There were no real clubs in my town to begin with.
Ergo, I didn't do that stuff in my 20s. I was, literally, in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I read about it, though, I get what I can only call a hankering -- a real need to experience that, to be there to see it, to feel that energy, that vibe, that genesis. To be a part of it.

Is my melancholy jealousy? Whatever it's a huge influence on my gaming, because it informs my cyberpunk setting.

You know, the one I never do anything with.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I like to draw.

I don't consider myself good at it; I rate myself a struggling hack at best. But it's fun so I keep doing it.

Being that it's a hobby that I get into pretty good, I have a few requisite materials and a few books on the subject, not to mention lots of bookmarked or saved on-line tutorials. It's the books I like the best, because they're more instantly portable.

For no good reason, then, I'd like to talk about the different books I have and give brief capsule reviews of them. Why? Because it's my blog, turkeys!

Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy Chris Hart

My man Chris Hart has cranked out a buncha buncha these art instruction books, and I own this one.

It rocks.

No, I'm serious. Flat out, you get it home and it jumps out of the bag and it jumps on your coffee table and starts riffin' hot licks and your cat jumps up on the dish cabinet and the neighbor girls all start swooning and The Fonz leaves town. It really does make anatomy easier to understand -- and to render. Worth the price of admission.

Drawing & Painting Fantasy Figures Finlay Cowan

Dude knows his stuff, and it shows. This book has been fairly useful, covering a variety of topics and media with a comfortable amount of depth and plenty of urging to go do the stuff yourself. It has a good section on drawing geometric patterns, a cool trick for rendering chains, some useful advice for faces and lots of nice examples. If it has any real downfall, it's that he makes it look easy.

How to Draw Fantasy Females: Create Sexy Cyberpunks, Seductive Supergirls, and Raunchy All-Action Heroines Chris Patmore

This title is a misnomer, actually, and I'm quite disappointed by the book as a whole. Outside of an interesting essay on creating strong female characters and some tips for rounding out background and personality and so on, there's not much real how-to in this book -- it's effectively a gallery of other artsists' hawt chixxors, with a few bits of how-to stuck on as a seeming afterthought, as if it suddenly occured to the editors that "Hey, it's going to say 'How To Draw...' on the cover!" Look through it at the bookstore, crib the notes and put it back. Mine's going to Half-Price Books next time I go up there.

Action! Cartooning Ben Caldwell

Now...I used to overlook this book at the shops. I don't know why. One day, though, I decided to pick it up and look it over. I copped a squat at the local Barnes & Noble, cracked it open, and peeped the innards.

I got a black eye out of the deal, because this mofo freaking pops with advice, tutorials, ideas, encouragement, practice poses and fun. I owned it within days, and I've been doodling wth its assistance for a few weeks now. (Witness the bee girl up top.) I showed it (and its companion below) to Anjiko-Z and she was like "Whoa!" I cannot reccomend this book highly enough, kids. It's got the goods. Even if the style ain't your cuppa, you could do a lot worse than to have this in your library.

Plus -- at ten bucks, you can buy it and its sequel instead of "Draw You Up Some Sexy Cyberpunks Ha Ha Ha Just Kidding It's An Art Galley" .

Yes, it has a sequel. It's called

Fantasy! Cartooning Ben Caldwell

More of the same but with a fantasy bend. It covers FRPG-style stuff, a bit of horror, even some historical stuff and Harry Potter knock-off action pretty nicely, and although it does reiterate some of the stuff in Action!, it stands solidly on its own -- it gets down with monsters, dragons, inanimate objects, a bit of scenery and heraldry. It is by no meand exhaustive in its coverage, but it's a good, solid and encouraging starting point. It's got me drawing Conan throwing punches all day long. Thumbs up, me hearties.

Dragonart J "NeonDragon" Peffer

I actually haven't done anything out of this one yet, but I've read it and it's good stuff. I suck at dragons, so hopefully J here can teach me some of her kung fu. The book is a hoot to read, actually, because the author's chatty, goofy style is infectious and chipper. She's the type you want to have in your game group, or along with your wild bunch when you go out for chinese. Updates as they occur to me.

Ok. Post over! Go home now!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Han Solo and the Novels I Should've Read By Now

Now that my daughter is all jazzed up on Star Wars (and, man, is she ever), I'm finding a lot of her innocent, youthful enthusiasm washing up on me. The waves are familiar, long-forgotten and oh so very welcome. May 19th 1999 be damned, I love Star Wars again.

It's interesting, all the ways in which your life changes when a child enters your life.

Anyway, I chanced to start looking through some of my old Star Wars stuff as a result of Lily's excitement. Lots of old RPG stuff, yes, but novels and such as well. I have very few of the novels published in the 90's, though I used to own a number of them. I never read them, though, because they never quite grabbed me. After the Zahn Trilogy wrapped up, subsequent books felt...stale. I remember reading a few chapters of Truce At Bakura and saying, out loud and to no one in particular, "Is this a TNG novel?!" Never went further than that, and that book is gone.

But I still have my Han Solo novels.

Back in '79, Brian Daley landed a gig writing some novels about Han and Chewbacca in a kind of Star Wars sub-setting called the Corporate Sector. They took place before Ep. IV (I feel kind of weird calling it that), and featured new villians, new characters, new bad guys...all kindsa cool stuff.

Not an Imperial in sight, too, which makes it interesting.

I'd never read these books, either, because I'm terrible about having boks I never read. I decided that I needed to read one, though, so I grapped up Han Solo's Revenge, the second of the books, and plunged in.




Breakneck pace, exotic locations, flamboyant characters, fancy flying, a swoop chase, gunfights, space pirates, popping dialogue...this is Star Wars. From start to finish, a bust-'em-up good time.

I just started the first book, Han Solo at Stars' End. So far, it's good stuff -- it opens with a chase scene, and Solo busts the sensor dish off the top of the Falcon right on page 4. It's pure, distilled crazy space opera fun, uncluttered with Yuhzan Vong (or whatever) or Midichlorians or Gungans or that crap about moons falling on people.

I am back in my element, and I thank my daughter for pulling me along.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Let Me Tell You About My Character

My wife is prepping a Fantasy HERO game inspired by Mediterranean stuff as opposed to European middle ages stuff -- most notably, it's influenced by Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, a film which we both liked and feel is a horribly under-appreciated piece of American animation.

It has a great soundtrack, great performances, neat ideas and some gorgeous animation.


The film was considered a commercial failure in the US, where it became the lowest earning film of 2003 to be shown at 3,000+ theatres. It would earn an estimated $26.5 million at 3,086 theatres in the US, though it managed to gross $74 million worldwide. Because of this, it is the last traditionally-animated feature film made by DreamWorks, infamously proclaimed by Jeffrey Katzenberg that traditional animation was dead, feeling the American public were more interested in computer animation than watching drawings move. -- From the Wikipedia

That's...great, Katzenberg. Hey, you might wanna send the Japanese a memo, so they'll stop wasting their time sending us millions of dollars worth of moving drawings.


...Anyway. I developed the character of Aretas (that's him in the doodle) a while back, while I was working at The Worst Job Ever. He was originally meant for a Conan campaign, but I decided that he ought to migrate -- it's kind of in his nature. He really clicked with me, because he was an embodiment of a lot of things I needed at the time: he's bold, he's brash, he is beholden to no man. He is wrong in the head.

He is Conan, Sinbad and Han Solo rolled into one.

Here's how I described him in an e-mail on 10 October 2005:

Birthed on silken pillows and fed from suckling on the finest of meals, raised under gilt, vaulted palace roofs and clad in the choicest silks of Aquilonia and Khitain, Aretas has grown used to luxury. All of his life he has known the finest and the best, according them all due respect.

But even one so wealthy and coddled has needs, desires, wants that burn deep and roiling in his heart -- Aretas craves adventure, wandering, zest! These piles of gold glitter most finely, and any man would lie and cheat and slay to have that in which he indulges every day. Yet no treasure desires he like the mad exultation of braving the unknown. His limbs yearn to swing free in the wild, and his soul longs to go where it will, to sample pleasures of far-off lands and to know that greatest of treasures:


For Aretas has long been cloistered in his civilized world of servant-girls and silken bedclothes, and now the lusty call of the savage, unbound Hyboria beckons to him.
Sword in hand, Aretas has stricken out of the palace and the garden, to seek fortune, pleasure and knowledge on his own -- never will a man give unto him anything that he can get for himself. The flame of life burns too short -- let it burn high, hot and wild!

It being a HERO game, I gve him a couple of superskills out of Dark Champions -- and a neat little power: He gets 6D6 Luck, but only when he's attempting something really, really stupid.

To The Fray!

Called Shot to the Dharma, +3 To Hit

I haven't posted anything in a long time, and here's why.

Mostly it's because I...couldn't think of anything, and I didn't wanna post for the sake of posting. That's how Battlefield Earth got made. No, I just couldn't articulate any gaming-related musings into blog-worthy material...and there's the culprit.


I set my standard too high, I think. When I started this blog, I got a lot of encouragement; it was described, at one point, as having one of the highest signal-to-noise ratios of the gaming blogospheretronweb. I don't recall who exactly said that, but I didn't wanna let that guy down. I tried to make all my posts as good as I could, and full of helpful ideas and stuff; every time I wrote one of those "A Brief Digression" posts, I felt like I was cheating.

That started to get boring. I was reaching for the brass ring again. Straining, really, makin' faces and everything. "Unnnngh! NNNNNGHHHH!" Getting nothing done.

I started to take it too seriously, and it's time to kill the Buddha again.

So...if no one minds, I'm gonna shift the focus of this here weblog a little bit, if at least for a while. Jeff Rients and The Evil DM seem to have a lot of fun talking about other subjects of geek love: comics, movies, toys, video games and, in The Evil DM's case, hawt chix. I'm thinkin' I might spin things that way for a while, perhaps minus the hawt chix, just because. I've been drawing lately amd it's been another fun struggle, so maybe I'll gab about that, too.

I don't envision hordes of fans out there, awaiting my next musing with bated breath, so I really don't think anyone will mind. But if you do, I will turn an open ear to the surge of your cries.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Picking Up Strays

"I need to go visit my old Tae Kwon Do school soon," said my friend Anjiko-Z (not her real name, duh) this morning in stray conversation. "I haven't been there since June."

My immediate reply: "It'd be cool if you got there only to find that your old instructor had been replaced by a new, EVIL instructor, who was teaching the kids to win at all costs and was using the students to run drugs, prostitutes and pirated DVDs. Of course you'd have to go in and bust some heads, and do you have relatives who own a restaurant?"

"No," she replied, "but I have an uncle who woks for a restaurant supply company."

"Naturally he's being forced by the evil new instructor to use the supply company to distribute pirated copies of Little Man and Stomp The Yard. You gotta get down there and fix this, fast! But be careful because the new instructor is one of those hard-hitting NYC types, and he brought along some muscle -- "Slow Pony" Martinez, the dangerous Spanish TKD/Kickboxing champ, played in this movie by Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez."

Then I called my wife to check that yes, indeed, she does have some martial artist characters ready to play.

Because that's how I do things now -- I leave myself open for inspiration. Why struggle to grab the brass ring when you can just sneak up on it when it's not looking?