Aug 31, 2020

Clip Art - Dust Dragon and Harpy Attack

I've uploaded some new clip-art include Harpy Attack and Dust Dragon in both b&w and full color versions onto DriveThruRPG. Please take a look and consider using these for your game.

Dust Dragon a dragon (or wyvern if you prefer) raised from the arid dust of the forlorn desert surveys the land it rules.

Harpy Attack poor fighter in a precarious position wedged between a rock and a hard place taunts and defies a bloodthirsty harpy as she stalks him.

Aug 26, 2020

Monster Cards - Blink Dogs

A staple of classic DnD, Blink Dogs are intelligent with a highly annoying special ability: short distance teleport. Bite and teleport away. This is emblematic of old style play where each monster was a sort of puzzle to solve. How to deal with intelligent pack monsters that can coordinate and can avoid your attacks while it can attack you. The answer is, of course, Fireball. Which is almost always the right solution. Right?

I cannot identify the artist who drew this. I think it might be Roslof, as it is reminiscent of his painting style (see the cover of Keep on the Borderlands) but can't be sure since it doesn't have as much dynamic energy as many of his drawings demonstrate. There is no signature or credit. 

When looking through the monster cards it really strikes me that I would have liked to see a new edition of the classic Monster Manual that used all of this color art. The rebranding with the Jeff Easley cover would have been a good time to do a "1.5" edition with updated stats, like including the XP rewards. It really is surprising how neglected the core books were during the 80's heyday of AD&D.

Aug 24, 2020

Clip Art For Your Game Books

During this pandemic lockdown I've been busy reorganizing old art folders. Copying files off of old drives. Consolidating and discovering art I'd thought long lost. All with the purpose of not only having well organized archives, but to make Clip Art available to the gaming community through DriveThruRPG.

For a while now I've sold Clip Art on my website, and in the past have been contacted for art I'd be willing to license out for republishing. Most notably for Timothy Brown and his Dragon Kings project that had a very successful Kickstarter and turned out to be an excellent alternate take on Darksun. This made me aware at how I could contribute more to the gaming community. There are a lot of fantastic creators out there, writers and game designers who are in need of high quality art to accompany their well crafted words, but who are on tight budgets. 

To do an illustration of an Elf Bard, fully inked and colored takes about a good day of work; 8-10 hours. Even a skilled laborer gets $25 or so per hour, but how many can afford $250 a drawing for their little fantasy heartbreaker? Especially since these often need dozens or so illustrations. By making these available as clip art for an affordable price then more designers can afford to fill their books with cool art.

I did not want to confuse this clip art with the products published by Night Owl Workshop and so opened a new account called Studio Denmark that will be solely dedicated to providing high quality affordable licensed art. Each week I will be releasing new Clip Art you can use in your own books, games, and online adventures.

Most bundles includes high resolution full color art and where available also black & white inked art.

Aug 21, 2020

Frazetta Friday - A Princess of Mars

One of Frank Frazetta's most recognizable paintings, A Princess of Mars, came up for auction. 

From the Heritage Auctions article:

In 1970, Frank Frazetta painted two versions of the cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.

One he sent to the publishing house Doubleday, whose hardback version of the 1912 story — featuring the debuts of Confederate soldier John Carter and Martian princess Dejah Thoris — has become one of the most recognizable and influential covers in publishing history. And the other Frazetta made for himself immediately upon competition of the assignment. He was deeply proud of the piece and knew its return was unlikely. Better, he thought, to make another than lose this only child.

Previous auctions have been as high as $5.4 million for Egyptian Queen. No doubt this one too will go into the 7 digits. Here is a link to super hi-rez version (Heritage Auctions account required, it's free to sign up):

Aug 19, 2020

51 Foot Rope

 From the Tarniss RPG. Describing the Dungeoneer game in classic OSR terms.

The humble 50' rope is an essential item for the aspiring dungeoneer. With this simple tool pits can be traversed, sheer cliffs can be climbed, and dangerous foes can be tied up. So what is a 51' rope?

In ancient times the eldritch lords dabbled in the darkest arts. One humble apprentice of an evil wizard whose heart had not yet been corrupted read through his master's forbidden tomes and tried a simple prestidigitation that would bring life to an inanimate object. He held an old hemp rope and spooled it out as he spoke the words of enchantment, but he fumbled the words a bit at the last moment and accidentally permanently enchanted the rope. This rope was 51' long, and no matter how many times it was cut it would be exactly 51' and the cut pieces would duplicate some of the magical properties of the original. Though its duplicates did not have the unique ability of creating additional copies of themselves, they did retain certain magical properties that protected its owner from traps, and could at times sacrifice itself to prevent a wound.

51' Rope
Enchanted Item
This rope provides +2 versus traps and falling in pits. It may be sacrificed to prevent 1 wound from a fall or trap.

Aug 18, 2020

Dungeon Map Doodler

Seems like everyday some new tool to aid in playing D&D, or your other favorite RPG is published. There are a lot of map making tools available online, and random dungeon generators of varying levels of quality and usefulness.

Dungeon Map Doodler is a map making tool that is easy enough for anyone to use regardless of their drawing ability. Play with it for a few minutes and you can quickly create an interesting dungeon map for your next gaming session. It also allows you to output the map in various file formats. I particularly like the .png format, but it also has jpeg.

You can save your map to return later to work on it more, or download it.

Aug 17, 2020

Advanced D&D Deities and Demigods Review

Deities and Demigods for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was billed as an essential book to play the game, but is it really that necessary? 

First published in December 1980 it went through essentially 3 major versions, and 8 printings with minor variations.

The original 1st & 2nd printing had 144 pages, with 17 mythologies. 13 of which were real world like Greek and Norse while 4 are fictional from fantasy literature. This included the famous (notorious?) Cthulhu and Melnibonean myths.

Due to copyright issues these two were cut from the book and it was reduced to 128 pages. The author Jim Ward claimed he had a letter from Chaosium granting permission to use those mythos but that TSR administration lost it. At first TSR simply credited Chaosium, but then decided to remove them altogether so as not to provide any attention to their competitor. A real loss since they were two of the best chapters in the book.

In the 5th printing TSR rebranded the cover with an illustration by Jeff Easley of Odin wielding his spear Gungnir charging through the sky on Sleipnir accompanied by his wolves Freki and Geri. Other than that there was no material difference from the previous 128 page version.

The book is largely organized in three sections, the first being an introduction and some new rules and guideline to manage the divine in your campaign. The middle section is the pantheons themselves. The last section are appendices detailing the outer planes and some additional info about adventuring in the ethereal and astral planes. Of these three sections it is perhaps the pantheons themselves, the bulk of the book, that are the least useful in actually playing the game. Unless you are using the gods as high level monsters, not much is provided in the way of practical application to your campaign.

The first section expands ability stats. At the time abilities were capped at 18. And strangely Strength had a clunky additional percentile system added to give extra bonus to fighters who were seen as underpowered as compared to the other classes, particularly magic-users. To accommodate divine beings this 18 cap was raised to 25 picking up right from where the Player's Handbook left off. Why the designers couldn't have the imagination to see beyond 25 is a mystery, it seems obvious to us now in hindsight that the numbers should be able to progress indefinitely. This cap causes problems in some of the stat blocks of the gods described as we'll see clearly in the Norse section where many gods have the same 25 strength score that Thor has so they have to give him a special little nudge instead of just giving him a higher score.

Perhaps the best useful game mechanic associated with the expanded ability scores is Negative Charisma. Something that seems to have been left out of later editions of the game. This negative score had the effect of instilling horror in lesser beings. Very Cthulhuesque in its implications for game play.

The pantheons serve as little more than a survey of each of the specific mythos. And not a particularly scholarly one. TSR was experiencing a huge boom and certainly had the financial ability to hire qualified freelance writers knowledgable in the field. Imagine this, middle school and high school students everywhere were intensely interested in the game and reading the rules book, this would have been an excellent source to educate on history, legends, and beliefs from around the world. Instead the task was left to a staff writer who did the best he could under the circumstances, no doubt there were intense deadline pressures, what we get is closer to what you'd find in comic books and popular media of the day. And it carries over the problems from the original Gods, Demigods and Heroes from the original edition. Trying to give tangible stats to divine beings. Making this more of a high level Monster Manual than a resource for developing the mythos in your own campaign world and fleshing out the Cleric class.

The highlight of the book has to be the four fictional mythos, in particularly the non-human pantheon which gives us such memorable deities as the orc god Gruumsh, the demon queen of spiders Lolth, and the disturbing lobster headed goddess of the kuo-toa Blibdoolpoolp. This is the only pantheon that is uniquely particular to Dungeons and Dragons.

Of the chapters that do make the book worth having: Cthulhu, Melnibonean, Non-Human, and Nehwon mythos half were removed. The treatment of the Outer Planes is interesting, but doesn't provide enough detail to really use. The divine ascension rules are nearly useless.

Deities and Demigods introduces the gods of myth and legend to AD&D by providing combat statistics for them and very little to promote actually using them as something other than high level monsters in the game. It is ultimately a book of missed opportunities, and fails to be that essential for playing clerics or for helping DM's to create their campaign world. It is an interesting artifact of its time, but the poor scholarship and general lack of creativity and useful information makes it a pass for most. Perhaps it was just too big a task for one book. Each of these pantheons needed to be a source book of their own, in a sort of Mythic Earth series. There are better sources for each of them. Chaosium's outstanding Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, and Pendragon RPG's gives those topics the treatment they deserve. For the other pantheons a basic Mythology Encyclopedia provides more authentic and useful information if a DM wanted to make a Mythic Earth style campaign.

I didn't set out to give a negative review, I have quite a fondness for this book, if only for the nostalgia of having read it, played it, and killing half the gods in it in our gonzo middle-school gaming sessions. I still think much of the artwork holds up.

The long gap between this video and the previous review video was a fluke, I have a lot more lined up. I originally recorded this months ago and was in editing hell. I finally threw it away and recorded a new version last night. I learned I do not enjoy editing and it is better to do a straight forward video and cut out the most egregious mistakes and then let it go. Unfortunately once uploaded to YouTube it sounds like I recorded it with a grapefruit in my mouth, even though it sounded fine on the original. I don't know why its so muffled and quiet. In the future I'll have to pump up the gain on the microphone more, if it comes out too loud it is probably better than being too quiet.

Aug 15, 2020

Bug-A-Bear Sketch

Working on an update to the art for each of the Dungeoneer monsters in the conversion to the Tarniss RPG.

Here is an idea for the Bug-A-Bear, and also a bonus sketch of a Druid because she was on the same page in my sketchbook :)

Aug 14, 2020


From the Tarniss RPG. Describing the Dungeoneer monsters in classic OSR terms.



HD: 4 (12hp)
AC: 16
Atk: 2 claws (1d4x2)
Save: 13
Move: 9
Morale: 9
Treasure: A
CL/XP: 4/400
Special: dying scream when killed, everyone within 20' radius take 1d6 damage, Save for half damage.

The Bug-A-Bear is a horrific monstrosity created by the corrupted wizards of Ilbor Paiden from the husks of giant beetles and carcasses of viridian bears from the Taraka mountains. They are highly territorial and constantly ravenous. There is a saying in Dolmar that is told to children when they won't mind "Beware of the Bug-a-Bear".

Here was the original sketch, this dates from around 1999.

Aug 13, 2020

Indentured Guardian

Indentured Guardian

HD: 4
AC: 16
Atk: 1 weapon (1d6)
Save: 13
Move: 9
CL/XP: 6/500
Special: paralyze, immune to sleep & charm, ward

An indentured guardian is a guard posted to protect an entrance who was enchanted to be ever vigilant even beyond death.

Their attack can cause paralyzation if the victim fails a saving throw. Paralyzation lasts 2-7 rounds (1d6+1). A guardian will not attack a paralyzed character.

If the object of its protection is breached the indentured guardian will crumble to dust in a howling, screaching, terrifying collapse as it has failed in its duty. Sometimes (1 in 6 chance) ancient wards are placed on the entrance to be triggered by the howls of a guardian.

Wards (roll 1d6)

  1. Poisonous gas fills the area all within 20’ radius Save or die.
  2. Fiery blast incinerates; all within 5’ radius take 3d6 damage, within 10’ radius take 2d6 damage, within 20’ radius take 1d6 damage. Save for half.
  3. Electric bolts zap, all within 20’ radius take 2d6 damage. Save for half.
  4. Acid floods the ground, Dex check or take 2d6 damage and footwear is ruined.
  5. Sonic attack, all within 20’ radius take 2d6 damage and blood discharges from eyes, ears, and nose. Save for half.
  6. Disenchantment aura, 1 magic item chosen randomly loses its enchantment. Spells cannot be cast in the immediate area for 1-6 hours. 

From the original Beasties

Aug 12, 2020

Monster Cards are a tad better than the Monster Manual

 One time I won an ebay lot with a bunch of old D&D stuff and it had a deck of Monster Cards. I never saw these back in the 80's and didn't even know they existed until the lot arrived in the mail. A pleasant surprise to be sure.

Reading through the cards I can appreciate how well done they were for the time. Excellent full color art and full descriptions and stats on the back. Upon closer inspection they also have minor improvements over their original entries in the Monster Manual. Perhaps the best addition being they provide statistics for the XP value of defeating the creature. Changing the numbers from ranges (ie. 2-12) to dice rolls (2d6) was probably just a bit easier for quick reference during play, it is a minor thing to convert 2-12 in your head to 2d6, but at a glance it makes for a quicker read.

Changing terms like "offal" and "carrion" to "garbage" and "carcass" is another minor improvement and these subtle changes to the language that is used reduced the reading level of the vocabulary just a bit, making them more universal. At this point elementary school age kids were playing the game.

These cards were published in 1982, a year after I started playing. I sure could have used them back then as a great playing aid! 

Here is one of my favorite creatures to use at lower levels, the humble bombardier beetle. It's always fun to add sound effects when they fire their deadly vapor cloud.