Jan 27, 2017

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck is another terrific book by Goodman Games. I got to do the layout work and maps on this guide for adventure writers and really enjoyed reading it and seeing it come together.

It's also filled with hilarious cartoons reminiscent of Dragonmirth from the old Dragon magazines and the classics by Tom Wham in the original AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.

The byline:
Advice on how you can write great adventures - from the company that has published more than 200 top-notch adventures!

Back the Kickstarter here:

Jan 19, 2017

Beastie of the Week: Imprisoned Fiend

Imprisoned Fiend
HD 4
AC 18
Atk ML 1d4
Save 13
Move 12
CL/XP 6/400
Special: night vision

An imprisoned fiend appears as a very attractive female or male. They will hide out in dungeons, in locked rooms behind bars and will pretend to be a prisoner. They will plead to be set free, promising anything they think their potential savior may want like wealth, powerful magic, sex, or prestige.

Once freed they will be enthusiastically grateful, promising to provide the reward as soon as they are able. When possible they will be kind and helpful, though never going too far out of their way to aid. The fiend also will never attack except in self defense. They will never actively do anything untoward, negative, or that harms the party they are with. But...

An imprisoned fiend emits an aura that gives +1 to all saves, +1 to hit, and +1 armor class to opponents of the party they have attached to within a 50' radius.

When killed the imprisoned fiend bursts in a shower of sulphuric dust and a mocking hollow laughter fills the air. Everyone within hearing range must save or take 1d4 points of damage and start bleeding from the ears, losing all hearing for 2d12 hours.

Jan 13, 2017

Raiders Preview: Agrippa’s Book of Occult Philosophy

It's been too long since I posted an update on Raiders!

The character classes are fairly nailed down now, the rest of the book is written and edited. Now it is just doing as many drawings and placing as much art as possible before the deadline. What deadline? Well, I'd like to have these books in time for Dundracon, and to make sure they arrive in time I'll order a batch from Lulu by February 9. So I'll be uploading the files February 8 for the Lulu Print-on-Demand (POD) version. PDF's will only be available on DriveThruRPG.

It takes a week or so to get a sample book back from DriveThruRPG before they'll allow me to approve the book for sale. So the POD + PDF discount combo will likely be available around February 15th. This seems to be the preferred deal to order if sales of this book are consistent with previous books I've done.

I'll continue to do the previews of Raiders until then. Here is another one, the classic ancient tome trope, another relic of great power that belongs in a museum, not in the hands of a madman...

Agrippa’s Book of Occult Philosophy: Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) is the most influential writer of Renaissance esoterica, and indeed all of Western occultism. The Book of Occult Philosophy (De Occulta Philosophia libri) is Agrippa’s study of occult philosophy, acknowledged as a significant contribution to the Renaissance philosophical discussion concerning the powers of ritual magic and its relationship with religion. The book was printed in 1531 in Paris, Cologne, and Antwerp. It was an ambitious attempt to rejuvenate the art of magic which had degenerated during the medieval ages. He did this by assembling an intellectual and theoretical foundation from his extensive collection of sources. Agrippa started with a “systematic exposition of Ficinian spiritual magic and Trithemian demonic magic and treatised in practical magic” (I. P. Couliano in Hidden Truths 1987, p. 114). Other major sources used by Agrippa include Liber de mirabilibus mundi of pseudo-Albertus Magnus, Giovanni Pico’s Oratio de Dignitate Hominis and Apologia, Johannes Reuchlin’s De Verbo Mirifico, Pliny’s Historia Naturalis, as well as Picatrix and the Hermetic and Neoplatonic texts. The resulting text circulated widely in manuscript form.

Unknown to most was that the original hand written book contains true occult power, filled with spells, incantations, and alchemical recipes. The original has long been lost, but recent clues have arisen that might reveal its actual location. The volume was published in three books (and it might make for a more interesting adventure to have the players collect three originals).

Jan 11, 2017

Boob Monsters! I Mean Monster Boobs!

The other day an article about Dungeons and Dragons shift away from monster boobs popped up and it got me to thinking about one of my favorite subjects. Society has determined they must be hidden from sight. We talk about them in whispered rumors. They come in many shapes and sizes. Because of their nature many wonder what they look like.  Of course I'm talking about monsters!

Having gone through art school I've had to do a lot of nude figure drawing. Because of the classroom atmosphere it immediately becomes clinical. It is a matter of fact, you are just studying the human figure. At some point you become inured to nudity. This is the complete opposite of being a kid and opening up the Monster Manual for the first time and seeing the succubus entry!

When drawing stuff and showing it in public sometimes I have to check myself. When drawing monsters for the Beasties book I had an entry for a succubus and I decided to draw inspiration from the original Playboy model Miss May 1977 Sheila Mullen that Dave Sutherland III used to draw the succubus entry in the original Monster Manual. I had to remind myself to be discrete in certain areas.



Jan 9, 2017

Convention appearances 2017 updated

I was just accepted to the Gen Con art show for 2017! I went to Gen Con last year as a guest of Goodman Games and had a blast working with the guys at their booth. The art show last year was so good I was blown away. It's a juried show which means they choose between all the submissions of artists who want to be in the show. I'm honored to be part of the show this year.

Also I acquired a table at Sacramento Wizard World comic convention which takes place on June 16th. I went there last year for the first time and it went very well. I'll have a lot of new and exciting things in time for that show so it should be a good one.

Something I have been working on with my convention appearances is appealing to the difference in comic cons and gaming cons and what the attendees want. While they are both "geek" culture and there is a lot of overlap, art sells really well at comic cons whereas my RPG books and games do well at gaming conventions.

A "no brainer" right?

Well it wasn't always so clear in my thinking because I'd always go as "Thomas Denmark the Artist" and by the way I have these gaming books. My booth would be a hodgepodge of my work. Now I go to gaming conventions in the guise of Night Owl Workshop with all my gaming books and material, and I don't bring much art. When I go to comic cons I only bring a few of my recent gaming material, but mostly it is about the art I do for publishers and personal work. This has really helped to make the conventions more successful.

The exception to this is Gen Con, since I'll be in the art show I'll be presenting my booth as primarily an artist's booth. I will have some of my new RPG books though (which is allowed under the rules of the show).

Thanks for reading all that, here's a little treat. An Eladrin Swordmage I drew for Wizards of the Coast. (I know it's 4th edition D&D, but they commissioned me for a lot of art during that era. I should make a post how I'm starting to appreciate 4e a little more...)

Beastie of the Week: Koblin

HD 1
AC 14
Atk ML 1d6
Save 18
Move 9
CL/XP 1/15
Special: night vision

Koblins are the offspring of a kobold and a goblin, and due to a strange genetic anomaly are greater than either of their parents. They will often grow up to rule the clan they are born into, unless they are thrown out at an early age which happens more often than not.

Even though they are very light sensative they do not suffer a penalty to hit in sunlight like their parents do.

Koblins are smallish creatures measuring around 5ft tall that inhabit dark woods, underground caverns, and the otherworldly realms of the fey. They have a thirst for battle and have the ability to encourage a troop of kobolds or goblins to increased fierceness in battle which endows a +1 to hit. Kobolds and goblins will also be of increased courage, rarely falling back or surrendering.

A koblin’s lifespan is often two or three times that of a normal kobold or goblin. Due to this they are often revered as demigods after the generation they were born into passes away.

Jan 4, 2017

Weta Workshop Sculptor's Labyrinth Model

For those of us with a love for fantasy who grew up in the 80's the movie Labyrinth was pretty special. The designs that Jim Henson's workshop made for that movie still hold up. The stunningly gorgeous Jennifer Connelly was any boy's dream. And of course the great David Bowie was simultaneously entrancing and terrifying as the Goblin King. Just brilliant.

Sculptor Johnny Fraser-Allen has recreated the Labyrinth and its characters in miniature as part of a board game that is being developed. Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) visited his workshop and conducted this great interview.

You could write a pretty great RPG adventure based on Labyrinth. And the world that movie evokes is a compelling setting. I could see a series of adventures much like Gygax's Dungeonland and Beyond the Magic Mirror adventure modules!

Jan 3, 2017

Beastie: the Underclawed Prana

I've got a sketchbook full of beasties I've been drawing over the winter break. I'm looking forward to writing up descriptions for them and cooking up some new creatures to challenge your players with. This vicious little monster is inspired by a documentary on the Amazon I recently watched. I was wondering what a piranha would look like through the dark mirror of DnD and imagined this swarming horror. The entangle + swarm mechanic might need a little more massaging to get working right, this version may be a bit extreme. Or not! Depending on how clever and powerful the characters are.

Underclawed Prana
HD 1
AC 18
Atk ML 1d4
Save 13
Move 12
CL/XP 1/100
Special: entangle strike

The underclawed prana appears to be a normal, if somewhat spiky, fish with spindly legs. They tend to live in schools of 5-20 (1d4x5) and lurk in murky waters, stagnant pools deep in dungeons, or in primordial swamps. They can survive for short periods out of water as they crawl to a new body of water.

These ravenous creatures are deadly in close proximity (within 5’) as they can shoot out a clawed tongue to entangle potential prey. On a hit the victim must make a save (add Dex bonus) to avoid entanglement. If the save is failed they will have one round to attempt to beat off the prana, any successful melee attack will do.

If still entangled after one round the rest of the school will then swarm upon the victim and quickly devour it in 2-5 rounds. They may take longer to chew through metal armor (add 2d6 rounds for chainmail or above), but anything less will not deter them.

Jan 2, 2017

Top posts of 2016, Year in Review

Happy New Year everyone!

2016 saw tremendous growth for this blog, while the unique visits have rocketed to well over 13,000 a month, nearly 4,000 more than last year's average, it has been interesting to see so much of the conversation move over to Google + and various forums, with only the occasional comment on individual posts here and there.

My top 5 posts this year, in terms of traffic have been:

This homage to skull mountain from the Blue Holme's edition:
5. Mystery Map: Underworld Cutaway

A partial review (which I hope to finish soon) of TSR's Indian Jones RPG:
4. The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game

Of the various previews of the new Raiders RPG I'm working on, this one was most popular:
3. Raiders Preview: Fringe Groups and Pseudo-Archeology!

And for some reason, this really old post, still ranks in my top traffic every year! I should do a follow up post to talk about what I learned from this.
2. OSR Manifesto

And the hands down winner by far was this little gem I stumbled across and immediately shared on this blog and on a cartography group I'm on:
1. Map Your Own Fantasy World to a Globe

I'm resolving to make this blog even more useful this year, creating more Beasties, more Maps, and more supplemental information ready for use in your own game.