Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dicing with Distraction

Yes, I confess, I failed to do a blog post last week. AND, I've been failing to do the promised "Daily Sketch" posts... in fact, I've been failing to do the sketches themselves. But there's a good reason for most of this.

The lack of Blog Post last week was mostly the day-job getting in the way. Boss visits, that sort of thing. The usual that goes on with the mundanity of the day-job.

On top of that, I've been reading through the final layout proof of the 4th Corebook for Conspiracy X 2.0 - the Conspiracies Sourcebook. It's a huge tome, filled with a LOT of information, and a lot of it is in print for the very first time, so it's taking a while to read through. I'm determined to have it finished this week though, one way or another.

The Conspiracies Sourcebook presents for the first time, a lot of new background and detail about Area 51, reveals the origins of Aegis and the NDD, and has a lot of cool stuff that takes the game in new directions, as well as building the setting up for the inevitable alien invasion that'll feature in Conspiracy X's sister game, Extinction.

In addition to this, I've been working my way through the original files for Extinction, trying to work out what's needed to bash it into shape.

When I haven't been working on that, I've been looking into game systems and planning for other possible games, as well as still working on WILD, so I haven't been completely resting on my laurels.

Saying that though, it is January. The weather has been miserable. I don't mean the snow, I like snow. I mean the ice and sludge and cold that comes afterwards. The ice has made the daily trek to the day-job hell on earth, and I've left the iPad at home for fear of slipping on the untreated pavements and landing on it. Hence the lack of "Daily Sketches". None of those lunchbreak iPad doodles that I promised...

And January is naturally depressing. Everyone's broke after the festival of excess. If you had any time off over the festive season, you've been returned to the horrors of mundanity (luckily, being in crappy ol' retail means I don't have any time off over Christmas, so it's not so much of a shock being at work in January). And the bills on the credit cards are starting to come in... I find myself staring at the nonsense of Facebook, waiting for something interesting to happen rather than actually motivate myself.

Which is stupid really. WILD is such a personal project, and I should be really enthused. The other stuff I'm working on is really cool. I dunno. Maybe it's just real life whispering in my ears while I sleep, telling me how it's all going to go wrong, how I should remember how horrible last year was, and how I really shouldn't bother trying.

Well, negativity. To paraphrase George RR Martin's "A Game of Thrones" - There is only one thing we say to negativity - "not today".

The new use for an old Gem Dispenser - DICE!
While I've been trying to motivate myself, the lovely wife had an incredibly geeky idea. A "gem dispenser" was being thrown out by a shop, and she jumped a the chance to bring it home. Initially, she wondered what to do with it, and then we both came to the same conclusion. DICE.

Over the years we've accumulated a lot of dice, and we have our favourites that we keep handy... but what of all the other ones? The slightly older ones? The D20's that we don't use as we usually play Unisystem, WoD or ATS? Well, they seem to look rather cool in the dispenser, and if anyone needs any dice when they come around to play, it'll be just £1 for a random selection! Just need more dice now to fill it!

While looking through my old dice to fill the dispenser, I found a real relic. My first ever D20. An old fleshy-brown, plain effort with the numbers highlighted with a wax crayon. The corners were heavily worn and a bit peely, but there was something about it that brought back hundreds of memories. Of sitting around a table at Pete's, playing AD&D, as that 9th level Paladin who never seemed to advance, armed with my +5 Holy Avenger, staggering around in full plate armour. Ah, those were the days.

My first D20, preserved in its own
little display case.
(Yes, those are signed Gillian Anderson photos)
Wifey decided that such a relic from my past should have pride of place. It shouldn't be shoved into the dispenser along with the other dice, it should be displayed. So, with one of the empty dice boxes and a straw, the old D20 now has pride of place on the new bookshelves, strangely in front of my leather-bound D&D 3.5 Rulebooks that I've never played (and no, I still haven't tried 4th Ed yet... I may just wait until 5th).

So, enough distractions. I've taken a couple of days away from the day-job this week to catch up. I'll finish the ConX proofing, see what I can do to Extinction, do a little WILD, and other gaming stuff, draw something hopefully, and get the year going, finally.

And, I'll try not to miss another blog post!

Until next time, stay multi-classy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

That Time We Were in "Legends of the Dark Knight"...

Last post I talked about comics, and my feeble attempt to get my little shoddy comic published. I mentioned briefly that there was a tale to tell when it comes to D'Israeli's work on Batman. Well, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

So D'Israeli had done a lot of work with Ian Edginton in the past, and the pair teamed up again for a two part story in the epic Batman storyline "No Man's Land". Split over Legends of the Dark Knight 117, and Shadow of the Bat 85, it featured D'Israeli's awesome art as Bats battled the loons while Gotham was in ruins.

Anyway, in one of the issues (I think it's the end of Legends of the Dark Knight 117) there's a panel where the Penguin's ranting, and there are loads people around him, his goons, minions, general Gothamites. And D'Israeli needed inspiration for the crowd, and drew a load of people he knew in there. So, in the background of this scene, you'll find a particularly evil looking Debs, and me (back when I had hair).

Debs (in the front row of the crowd, next to the person who looks like Tyrion Lannister) and
Me (in the middle row at the back, with my old larger glasses and some hair!)
Which is particularly awesome! Immortalised in the world of Batman.

Unfortunately, when Christopher Nolan decided to add No Man's Land to Knightfall to make the third of his Bat-films "The Dark Knight Rises" we were not called in to be extras in the background. We certainly would have been happy to appear in it. Would have given me a chance to try to convince Nolan to do a second Inception movie.


Meanwhile, I've been a bit slack with the "Daily Sketches". I'll post a load soon to catch up. Honest! However, I've a load of proofing to do, so back to work for me!

Until next time, stay multi-classy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roll Your Own Life (15) - Comic Sans

About time I got back to the history of my gaming life. This post diverges a little from the usual gaming stuff, but it's important as it lead to bigger things.

Howard the Duck
Issue 23 - Star Waaugh!
Ever since I was in school I loved drawing comics. I used to draw odd little adventures based on our gaming group as I mentioned before, chronicling our adventures in Star Frontiers, in a rather bad strip called Wormbusters. It wasn't great, and a lot of it drew heavily from what I'd been reading in Mad magazine or from a particularly ancient issue of Howard the Duck (the Star Wars parody issue... Yes, Family Guy, Howard beat you to it by about 30 years.). It was just something to draw while I was in the 6th form at school, and by incorporating as many people as I could from my classes, I had people clamouring to read it. It made a particularly unpopular kid at school remotely interesting for a brief period.

After school, I tried the RPG writing thing, but I still drew the odd comic strip here and there. I did a series of Wormbusters strips for the Hull Daily Mail (I don't think they ever used them though, but they did ask for them... It wasn't just me sending random crap to them, honest!) and I teamed up with Pete from the RPG group to produce a couple of comics that I may have mentioned before ("Drowning in Darkness" and "Ninja Secretaries from Beyond Dimension X") under the name Swampland Productions. Pete was the business and the writing, while I was the angst and the pencilling.

We advertised in Deadline magazine, got a little interest, and indie comics fanzine "Zum!" basically called me a "goth Herge", which I took as a huge compliment.

I thought this was the way to go, and as the day job at the council lead to my return to art college, I thought I'd focus on graphic novels and sequential art. However, comic art wasn't as favoured as it is now in the academic circles, so I didn't do the degree in Illustration as I'd planned - instead I did animation so that I could specialise in film storyboarding (I figured it was as close to comics as I could get). My degree film was like an animated comic strip, and my dissertation was comparing Frank Miller's A Dame to Kill For with classic film noir like Double Indemnity.

Comics had become everything. So much so that when I left art college, I applied to the Prince's Trust to start up my own comic publishing business - Autocratik Press. Surprisingly, they agreed and loaned me the money for my first print run for my comic "Missing".

Cover of Missing Issue 1,
Autocratik Press
"Missing" was basically a soap opera, set in a hotel at the border between Scotland and England, after England had become the 51st American State. It followed three or four plot lines about a suicidal girl escaping her abusive boyfriend, a group of surfing highwaymen who held up cars in the floodwaters, a gang who had kidnapped the daughter of the State senator, and other nonsense. It was trying really hard to be a new Twin Peaks in the near future. It did okay. My art was a bit sloppy, lettering was awful and done by hand, and after four issues my distribution said they'd given it a shot and it wasn't worth continuing, so I kinda gave up. It didn't make any money, but each issue paid for the next issue's print run, and I paid back the loan, but that was about it.
Promotional Postcard for Missing
More promotional
postcards for Missing

Page 90 of Missing
appeared in Issue 4
During this time I'd been going to comic conventions and chatting with some of the coolest indie comic creators around. Gary Spencer Millidge, Paul Grist, Paul Rainey, Martin Shipp, Marc Laming, Terry Wiley, David Moyes, and many more. It was a time when the UK indie comics scene was at its height, and creators were full of useful information to help each other out to get into the scene.

I wasn't going to give up. My art may have not been up to scratch, but I'd met someone who was awesome, and I offered to publish his new comic. D'Israeli had become a pretty recognisable name in the comics industry, inking Sandman, drawing Batman (there's a tale to tell there), and working for 2000AD (which he still does to this day). His work in Deadline (right next to our old Ninja Secretaries ad) on Timulo was a huge inspiration, and when he said he'd be happy to work together on publishing his next book "Consequences", I leapt at the chance.

D'Adventures of ISRAELI: Consequences
by Molly Eyre & D'Israeli
Part of his series "d'adventures of ISRAELI", it was amazing. Hit nuns, haddock, rocket launchers, everything. Genius.

I mean, just look at it. It's fantastic.

Below are some images from the comic that I put together for a promotional poster. The pics below are from the reverse filled with quotes from some of the big names in comics (Warren Ellis, Alan Grant, Andi Watson) all singing its praises. If you've never read a D'Israeli comic before, you're seriously missing out.

Click the pics, see them big!

Consequences Promotional Flyer page 1

Consequences Promotional
Flyer page 2

With a name like that, the distributors took note again, and I was almost back in business. Almost.

"Consequences" did okay, sold out and you can now find it in D'Israeli's complete Timulo collection "Timularo" here. But I'd just moved across the country, had no ideas, so I closed Autocratik Press down.

How does all this relate to gaming I hear you say? Well, a friend of mine called Jason knew I was a massive fan of The X-Files, and loaned me a copy of the Conspiracy X RPG. I read it and thought it would make an awesome comic, and set to contacting the producers of the game... Eden Studios...


Missing, Issue 4
As a reward for sitting through this massive piece of nostalgia, I've a handful of copies of issue 4 of Missing still sitting in my loft. It's a standalone issue, the art's not great, but they're just sitting there. The staples are a little rusty, but if you'd like one, send me an email to - and I'll tell you how to get one.

Basically, all I'm asking is you like my Facebook page, spread the word, and send me some stamps to cover postage. I'll email you the details. First come, first served, one each, and I'll even sign them if you like. I've even got some of the limited promo postcards, posters for "Consequences" and stuff like that.

Until next time, stay multi-classy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Daily Sketch: Days 5 & 6

Didn't get chance to post yesterday as bogged down with assembling some flatpacked shelving. I had a thought about how these pictures may be diluting the basic cause of the blog, so I may keep doodling but post a week's worth in one post, so that the interesting posts (at least, I hope they're interesting) about gaming don't get lost in the mass of awful pictures...

Anyway, here's yesterday's pic...

Daily Sketch 5: Not the Bad Robot you were expecting.
 I don't know what I was doing, I just started doodling...

Daily Sketch 6: Self Portrait of me circa 1988.
And the other one is a pic of how I used to draw myself back in the 80's! Hence the hair and the lack of glasses!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Daily Sketch: Day 4

Daily Sketch, Day 4. No idea, just started doodling. Discovered that setting Sketchtime to magic marker, in light grey, and a fine point, is like drawing in pencil. Hmmm...
Daily Sketch, Day 4. Just some doodling

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Daily Sketch: Day 3

Really couldn't think of anything to draw today, ended up doodling the scary doctor-spider thing in the book but trying to draw something that had deliberately weird stretchy limbs felt really odd. Not happy with this one either.
Daily Sketch, Day 3, evil spider-doctor-creature

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Daily Sketch: Day 2

Daily sketch time again. Really struggling to come up with ideas of what to draw, so just doodling any old crap. And crap really is the key word here. What kind of proportions am I going for here?
Daily Sketch, Day 2, Some guy with a gun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Daily Sketch: Day 1

Well, I promised I'd do it, so here goes. Daily Sketch, day one. I dunno what I was trying to do here, part of me wanted to start on the basics of one of the WILD Tarot cards, but I didn't get very far. I've found Sketchtime is good for doodles and working out what shape I want images, but nothing really beats pencil and paper for me. Maybe it's the huge stylus and lack of accuracy, or maybe it's just that I haven't really drawn anything for about ten years. 

Anyway, it's early days yet, maybe things will improve as the year goes on. So, yes... this is poop.

More tomorrow hopefully if I'm not buried under a mass of flat-packing and half assembled bookcases.

Daily Sketch No.1 - 1/1/2013 - WILD Card - The Pontifex

New Year's Task Resolutions

Writing this in the last few hours of 2012... that was a crap ol' year. I know it is just an arbitrary dating system, but I do hope 2013 proves to be better. Lost a lot in 2012, I'm determined to make sure that 2013 is better.

One of the ways I'm planning on this is I'm going to force myself to do some things. Well, not so much "force", let's just say I'm setting goals and I'm hoping I'll be able to meet them.

So here goes:

1) Finish WILD. This could be the hardest of the lot, but I'll put it first. I have the game system, I've started writing character creation, and I've started writing up the background and how the cards can be used. I just need to stop procrastinating and actually write the damn thing. And I need to produce a basic game system document so that I can start giving it to a select few to start playtesting, to make sure the system works.

2) Finish Extinction. This is another tricky one. I'd started work on it before my mum died, and then I just couldn't really face it. It's a dark and harrowing tale of warfare and survival after an alien invasion, and I guess my head wasn't in the right place to deal with some of the issues. But, I'm determined to get that finished for Eden. Sorry, George. I will, I promise.

3) Take part in NaNoWriMo again in 2013. NaNoWriMo was a great motivator, and I've already had some ideas for a sequel to the WILD fiction novel that I managed to write for the last NaNo. Of course, if this gets in the way of actually finishing the game, then I don't mind sacrificing this one.

4) Get out of Retail. Every Christmas I say "x Christmas in retail, that'll be the last one." Well, this year it was "12th Christmas in retail" and I'm determined that it'll be the last one. It destroys all of your festive spirit, and frankly, I'm getting too old for it. Then again, I say it every year, and every year I'm still there...

5) Draw. I used to draw all of the time. Hell, I set up a comic publishing company to get my writing and art out there to the public. After that, I really haven't tried much artwork since. I've purchased "Sketchtime" for the iPad, bought a stylus, and while the actual art I've been tinkering with for WILD won't be produced this way, it's a good habit to get into. I've taken to wasting my lunch hours playing GTA: Vice City or Carmageddon, when I should be producing something useful, so I figured I could be spending this time drawing something. I've decided that, no matter how little or crap, I'm going to draw something every day. I may even post them on the blog as a way of keeping track of my vow to keep going. Hopefully the first one coming on the 1st Jan... if I can figure out something to actually draw... and remember how to draw...

6) Do something with the video camera. No, not that you perv. I'm just sitting on this nice video camera (well, not actually sitting ON) that I bought for the Cheesemint stuff, and it's not doing anything any more. I really want to do some video stuff. I've had an idea for a short that is almost an introduction to the game, but that's at the more ambitious end of the filming spectrum. At the least ambitious end, I'd at least like to do some "blog" supplements, some unboxing of classic RPGs so you can see what they were like, and to show off what the new stuff is like and how cool it is.

So that's it.

Let's hope 2013 is a great one. Anyway, tasks to do, things to get done, so I'll leave it at that and go back to watching Firefly yet again. Genius...