Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Chrimble

However you celebrate the end of the year, I hope it's a good one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Best Mince Pies of 2020

For the past few years I have been taste-testing shop-bought mince pies; it started out as an excuse to eat a lot of mince pies, but it's become popular and people seem to value my opnion. Or they value me putting on weight in late December. You can follow along with me on the #mincetagram #MincePieADay or #MincePieFest2020 hastags on Facebook or Instagram if you're a big fan of arbitrary judgements about unimportant things.

Here are 2020's scores:

Put a big asterisk by this result as because I haven't been able to get hold of any minceys from Waitrose or Morrisons this year. I'm not too bothered by the former as their pies are never much good, but Morrisons' were among the best in 2019, so it's a shame I missed them this year.

So with that in mind, the best mince pie of 2020 is... a three way tie between local business Infinity Foods, my friend Liam, and the supermarket Tesco. If I had to pick one winner, and discounting Liam's pies because you can't buy them, my #MincePieFest2020 Grand Prize Winner is...


I will be taking questions later, at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

You Can Never Escape the Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, Probably

I've been drawing some more pictures for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, this time an upcoming adventure called The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible:

I'm not sure when the adventure is out, but I will mention it here when it is.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Mister Lord

Back when I was much smaller and younger, I read my brother's hand-me-down copies of Star Wars Weekly.

As was common for UK comics of the time, Star Wars Weekly was a sort of anthology; alongside the reprints of the US Star Wars comic, there were one or two other comics dragged from the Marvel archive, which were supposed to have a space theme to tie in with the main event, but somehow we ended up with Deathlok fighting Man-Wolf in New York, so I don't know what to tell you.

I remember enjoying Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Star-Lord the most out of all the back-up comics, but because there were gaps in our collection, I never got to see what this was about:

In 2014 Marvel published a collection of the early Star-Lord stories to tie in with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, and I picked up a copy so I could see how the story ended. I also got to see how the story began and, crikey, his origin is bonkers.

Within a couple of pages, Peter Quill's dad works out that he is not in fact Peter Quill's dad, so takes the infant outside to chop him up with a wood axe. Before he can do so, Quill Senior dies of a heart attack!

A few years later, Peter's mum is killed by aliens, so Peter decides to become a space racist.

So that's a bit different to the film then.

Peter decides to become an astronaut so he can go up into space and kill aliens, and turns out to be quite good at astronautery, but everyone at NASA thinks he's a bit intense and weird so he always gets passed over for the top jobs. A distraught Peter goes home and gets drunk with his pet owl.

After a few more twists and turns, throughout which Peter remains a complete douchecanoe, a space wizard turns up at NASA and tells them that he is going to turn one lucky astronaut into Star-Lord. Of course Peter is overlooked once again so what does he do?

He goes on a shooting spree around NASA HQ.

Of course.

Standard Marvel hero behaviour. If you're the Punisher.

After shooting all his colleagues and friends, Peter is transported to the space wizard's grotto, where he is given the Star-Lord costume and then gets to go and kill the aliens that killed his mum, except it turns out to be an illusion created by the space wizard so that Quill can get the revenge out of his system or something. Then Peter and the space wizard go for a walk in the woods and that's your lot.

As origin stories go it is, to say the least, a bit odd. The alleged hero is a complete sociopath almost from the beginning and you keep expecting it to turn around at some point, like Spider-Man's origin, perhaps, except no. Instead it gets worse and worse until the protagonist becomes a spree killer. Okay then.

Quill's origin has since been multiple-retconned into a big continuity nonsense spaghetti but Marvel was already ignoring it by the character's second appearance, which says a lot. Star-Lord is still portrayed as a little eccentric and weird in later stories, but the specific murders and racism are skipped over. He's played more as an adventurer troubled by mistakes made in his past and less of a psychopath with a ray gun.

I can see why they decided not to use this version of the character for the films, as Peter Quill, Space Racist isn't going to sell many tickets for Disney on Ice. I am a bit baffled that Marvel published it in the first place, but I suppose it was the 70's.

The owl, alas, is not seen again. I feel that's a missed opportunity.


Here's what Marvel-NASA is wearing in 1990:

All the coolest astrophysicists wear capes.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Eclectic Avenue

This is the cover for an upcoming project for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The contents of the book are, as you can see, quite varied.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

You Are Really Spoiling Us

Here's a preview of some content from a project in the works at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, although you can use this with most old-school D&D variants. Have a go, and let me know how you get on!

Selenite Ambassador

You are an extension of Irdonozur, the Supreme Monarch of the Moon, sent to Earth to experience life on another world. You come in peace, wish to be taken to their leaders, and all that sort of thing. You have been selectively bred for diplomacy and open, friendly communication, but you are also a pale, chitinous thing with an enormous head so you’re going to get some odd looks.

Selenite Ambassadors have a hit bonus of +1 and start with 1d6 hit points at first level. Use the Magic-User experience table to determine experience, hit points, and saving throws for subsequent levels.

Selenite Ambassador characters start with the following special traits:

Alien: you stand out among the people of Earth and cannot pass as human, unless under a heavy disguise.
ESP: you can cast the ESP spell at will.
Hive Mind: you are, for all intents and purposes, Irdonozur, but your distance from the Moon has caused some interference or lag, and you have developed an independent consciousness. You may also have evolved such eccentricities as your own personality or even a unique name, like “Roger”. Should you return to the Moon you will “synch” and “update” – to use terms that the kids will understand – as you rejoin the hive mind and it absorbs your experiences. Whether this is fine and good, or something to be avoided, is up to you.

Each time a Selenite Ambassador gains a level, they should roll on the following table to see what happens. Some abilities are limited and you should roll again if you are ineligible to receive that ability.

Spells are cast at the Ambassador’s current level, which is a bit wonky and sort of breaks the rules but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

2d10 Ambassadorial Abilities:

2: You can transfer your consciousness to a willing entity and ride along in their mind, experiencing everything they do. While this happens, your body goes into a trance and does not require food or water; if your body is destroyed while you are hitching a ride, you must save versus Poison or your consciousness dissipates. You can transfer from one mind to another if, again, the new entity is willing. This ability can be gained only once.

3: You grow sharp chitinous claws, like those of your warrior siblings. The claws do 1d8 damage. This ability can be gained only once.

4: All Selenite Ambassadors have a pair of tentacle-like limbs in addition to their arms, but yours have developed into extra, fully functional, arms,. You gain an extra attack each Round and can do things like use a shield and a two-handed weapon at the same time. You can get this result only once, except in one case; if you gain wings (19) they replace the extra arms, and a subsequent roll of arms will then replace the wings, and so on.

5: You gain 1d6 Hit Points this level instead of 1d4.

6: Your chitinous exoskeleton is tougher than normal. Add +1 to your natural Armour, up to a maximum of 16.

7: You can cast Forget once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

8: You gain +1 Charisma, up to a maximum of 18.

9: You can cast Command once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

10: Your psychic awareness lets you detect hostile intent, which reduces your chance of being surprised by 1, to a maximum of -4, at which point, yes, you cannot be ambushed.

11: You are one of millions of Selenites, and if you die, Irdonozur will just hatch another one. You are immune to fear.

12: You can cast Remove Fear once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

13: You extend a psychic aura of calmness and geniality, which gives you +1 to Reaction rolls, up to a maximum of +6.

14: Your psychic powers interfere with hostile spellcasting, giving you a bonus of +1 to saves versus Magic. You can gain this benefit three times for a maximum bonus of +3.

15: You can project a bolt of psychic force into the mind of one being within 60’ once per Round. The target must save versus Magic or suffer 1d4 damage.

16: You can cast Confusion once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

17: You can cast Chaos once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

18: You can cast Feeblemind once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

19: You have grown a set of wings that allows you to fly at your normal speed. If you have already developed extra arms (4) the wings replace them. You can gain this benefit only once unless you have previously had your wings replaced by arms, in which case your arms drop off and your wings grow back. If you spend ten levels growing arms and wings in a never-ending cycle, then you have my sympathies.

20: Your huge psychic brain is smaller – but no less effective! – than those of other Ambassadors, and your body shape is closer to that of humans, all of which makes it easier for you to move amongst the people of Earth. You no longer have the Alien trait.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Neither a Teenager Nor a Ninja

After a very long absence, I've rejoined my gaming group and have dropped into a new D&D5 campaign. It's set in the frozen north, so of course I'm playing a tropical turtle druid.


This is Coraggio, because I've never had an original idea.

(And yes, the painter's name was spelled differently, but it's a pun. Not a good one, I admit, but you can't win them all.)

Monday, October 19, 2020


Over at Grognardia today, James looks at some early pre-generated characters in old-school D&D products:

I've always had a soft spot for Borg, primarily because of the way he's presented – as if written on a sheet of ruled paper of the sort every child uses in school (though his player's penmanship is far better than that of almost any child I ever knew). It's a reminder that character sheets, while useful, are unnecessary for a game that originally proclaimed itself "playable with paper and pencil and miniature figures." 

That bit reminded me of this piece I did for Adventure Anthology: Blood earlier this year:

Poor old Warninglid there is a legitimate LotFP character, but he wasn't run through an adventure, so his death is simulated. Er, more so than any role-playing character, I mean.

You can get Adventure Anthology: Blood in print here (EU) or here (US), or in pdf here, but this is all you will see of Warninglid, alas.

Thursday, October 15, 2020



This is what happens when you let the editor/publisher make irresponsible puns.

Edit: The book is in fact called Huguenauts, and I kept getting the spelling wrong. Oops.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Fantasy Battle, Warhammer Optional


This is for an upcoming project from Running Beagle Games.

Edit: The book is available now! It's called Comes Chaos and you can get it here.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Skeletons and Spacemen

There is a group on Facebook that collects pictures of skeletal astronauts. I was under the impression is was a group for artists to share their pictures of skeletal astronauts, but it turns out it's more general than that. Anyway, I drew this.

This is a first for me, as I drew the entire thing on the computer. My normal method is to pencil and ink on paper, then scan and use Gimp to clean up the image and add any greys or colours. Here, everything was done in Gimp from the start. I didn't even do any preliminary sketches!

It was a bit of a struggle and I think you can tell; the lines are more wobbly than normal and everything is a bit wonky in general, but I was starting to get the hang of it towards the end and it was a fun process.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Throw Your Hands Up at Me (Again)

Six (!) years ago I drew a hypothetical female Avengers team. It was okay.

Earlier this month, this appeared on Twitter:

So I drew this:

It's not an Avengers team as such, although I'm so out of touch with Marvel continuity these days that it's possible Black Cat and Motormouth have made it on to the team at some point.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Another Seedling

More video content! More video content that I did not create!

The people at Fantastic Dimensions have had another go at playing The Seed!


The first attempt can be seen here.

They have also played 2018's April Fool adventure Fish F**kers, and you can see that video here. I haven't embedded the video because the uncensored title is in the preview image and I'm making a half-hearted attempt to keep this blog PG.

You can get The Seed in paper here and in digital bits here. Fish F**kers is available in digital form here.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Watching The Seed Grow

I promised actual content. This is not that content. Or maybe it is, but it's not my content. Or maybe it is.


Here's a video of some people playing my new rpg adventure The Seed. There are some spoilers, but not many, because they don't get far.

Which is itself a spoiler. Damn.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Buy My Books! (If You Want)

Oh dear.

This seems to happen an awful lot. The blog goes silent for a while, then I pop up to try and sell you things. Proper content soon, I promise.

Adventure Anthology: Blood is a bunch of early Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures repackaged and with 250+ new pictures from me. EU shop. US shop. PDFs.

The Seed is a new adventure from Games Omnivorous that is intended to be broadly compatible with most game systems. I did the pictures and the words, but the amazing neon pink design was all them. I'm very proud of this one. You can get it in print or pdf.

Barbarians of the Ruined Earth is the long-awaited -- by me, anyway! -- post-apocalyptic role-playing game from DIY RPG Productions. I did a few maps and pictures for this book and I had a lot of fun working on it. You can get it here or here; the books have different covers but the same contents.

If you buy some of these books, I can perhaps afford to get my table re-varnished.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Barbarians of the Completed Project

Barbarians of the Ruined Earth is complete! Apparently they were waiting for me to draw this final piece:

Oops. Sorry for the wait, everyone.

(Yes, it's an homage to the Star Wars poster. There are five other deliberate Easter eggs in the picture to find!)

The files will now go off for printing and I'm not sure how long that will take given current world events, but I will post when the book is available.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Today's Special

The other day I waffled about food in role-playing games and now here we are.

Roll 1d100 to determine your character's favourite foodstuff. Maybe eating it improves their morale, or if eaten during a rest your character gets extra healing. Dunno. I leave that up to you.

01 Vegetable lasagne 51 Sausage sandwich
02 Banoffee pie 52 Coffee ice cream
03 Bean burrito 53 Aubergine parmigiana
04 Bangers and mash 54 Three bean chilli
05 Egg fried rice 55 Heuvos rancheros
06 Aubergine katsu curry 56 Hot wings
07 Bread 57 Garlic bread
08 A nice cup of tea 58 Banana bread
09 Cucumber sandwich 59 Omelette
10 Spam 60 Meatball sandwich
11 Pineapple and jalapeño pizza 61 Cola
12 Apple crumble 62 Weird elf bread
13 Sunday roast 63 Full English
14 Big bag of Monster Munch 64 Cottage pie
15 Cheese and pickle sandwich 65 Calamari rings
16 Tomato soup 66 Pot noodle
17 Chocolate sponge cake 67 Toasted cheese sandwich
18 Barbecue ribs 68 Four cheese pizza
19 Falafel 69 Steak and ale pie
20 Eggs Benedict 70 Fish and chips
21 Nachos 71 Yasai yaki soba
22 Sticky toffee pudding 72 Banana sandwich
23 Pasta and tomato sauce 73 Cheesy potato skins
24 Cheeseburger 74 Onion bhajis
25 Beans on toast 75 BLT
26 Fish finger sandwich 76 Meatloaf
27 Maggots 77 Pancakes
28 Steak and chips 78 Clam chowder
29 Scones with jam and clotted cream 79 Vanilla milkshake
30 Bunny chow 80 Tuna sandwich
31 PB&J 81 A strong coffee
32 Cookie dough 82 Carrot and coriander soup
33 Chicken nuggets 83 Spam
34 Barbecue chicken pizza 84 Lasagne
35 Roast pork and apple sandwich 85 Plain toast
36 Pad Thai 86 Prune juice
37 Onion rings 87 Chicken soup
38 Waffles 88 Jaffa cakes
39 Dark chocolate digestive biscuits 89 Doner kebab
40 Weak lemon drink 90 Corn bread
41 Spam 91 Haggis
42 Beef stew 92 Potato salad
43 Rocket and tomato salad 93 Human
44 Mozzarella sticks 94 Avocado maki
45 Tea, Earl Grey, hot 95 Pumpkin risotto
46 Pickled beetroot 96 Lemonade
47 Cheese on toast 97 Welsh cakes
48 Quiche 98 Pork scratchings
49 Roasted peanuts 99 Curly fries
50 Carrot sticks 00 Cornish pasty

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hardly Everchosen

I stumbled across this art today:

(I discovered that it's from a 2015 Age of Sigmar book and I can't tell you who the artist is because in 2015 Games Workshop wasn't big on giving credit to individual staff members.)

What struck me about the picture was how different it is to the standard GW house style, which tends to be more painterly. Actual drawings have very much gone out of fashion in Nottingham, so I was surprised but happy to see eight pages of this at the beginning of the book.

Alas, it's presented as a flashback and the final page blends from this style into your bog-standard GW painting, so there's a sense that it's literally "only a dream", but it's still nice to see a different style of art appear in a modern GW product. Maybe there are more that I have missed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Yummy Yummy in My Tummy

Patrick Stuart has written an interesting post about tweaking the rules of D&D -- or rather tweaking how you use the rules of D&D -- to encourage a different play style, one that is gentler and more social. One of the things he talks about is food, how the sharing of food is an important social ritual, and how that could be reflected in a game.

(Be warned, I am now about to miss about 98% of the point of Patrick's post.)

That got me thinking about how food is used in role-playing games, or rather how it isn't. Meals and rations appear on equipment lists and you may have one of those GMs that pays attention to whether the player-characters are eating enough, but for the most part it's either a background element or a nuisance, a "starvation counter" that needs to be managed along with how many arrows or torches you have.

It seems a bit of a waste and it would be nice if more were made of food in games, as Patrick suggests.

(It's interesting that what fantasy games have taken from Lord of the Rings is the long walks but not the many, many pages of discussion of what the characters are eating and how it tastes. That's a bit weird.)

I've always been fond of how food is used in Fighting Fantasy, perhaps because I grew up reading-playing the books. There food is presented as a source of healing; if you are stabbed by a GOBLIN then you get better by eating sandwiches. It's an abstraction to the point of nonsense but the silliness is part of the charm. I love the idea of a battered group of adventurers having a picnic and emerging healed of their wounds.

Food-as-healing seems common in computer games, I suppose again because it's a useful abstraction that sort of makes sense, and the immediacy of the idea works well in context. Another seminal influence on my philosophy of games -- ludo-philosophy? -- is Sega's Phantasy Star, which has a science-fantasy setting somewhere between Greek myth and Star Wars, and in which the main healing items are burgers and cola. Again, the absurdity of the idea of adventurers going around a dungeon with a bag full of Big Macs and bottles of Pepsi appeals to me.

A recent and more complex implementation of the idea is Final Fantasy XV, which makes food the most important part of the resting mechanic, and gestures in the vague direction of the social elements Patrick is talking about. Ignis, the party butler -- they never say it, but he's obviously the butler -- cooks a meal for the adventurers every time they rest. Most of his dishes give some sort of bonus to character statistics and if the recipe is a favourite of one of the other party members, there's an added effect for that character. Travelling the world and speaking to people exposes Ignis to new ingredients and tastes that he can add to his notebook, which is a nice way to integrate the characters into the setting and reward exploration.

Almost all of the bonuses are combat related, because that's the sort of game FFXV is, so it doesn't get into the sort of thing Patrick discusses, but the fact that different characters have different favourites is a nice touch -- and one easy to pull into your average D&D game; a d100 table of favourite meals is easy enough to do -- and we are at least treated to a little cut scene each time, with the lads sitting around a camp fire in those flimsy folding fishing chairs, enjoying the meal and each other's company. It's a start, anyway.

Where am I going with all this? I don't know. Perhaps nowhere. I think all I wanted to say is that because of how I started in gaming I have this feeling that food should be more prominent in our games, even if it's just replacing healing potions with meatball subs and packs of Monster Munch, but it would be nice to do something more.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tin Wizard

The WizardIn the chat for my group's current D&D5 game Stuart asked is his wizard could be assumed to have the Mage Armour spell active at all times, without having to state it at the table. Stuart argued that since his wizard would be casting the spell every morning anyway, it would be simpler all round for it to be assumed to happen, and it's a good point.

Stuart cited a rules concept from the Burning Wheel role-playing game in which each character has a handful of these standard operating procedures, and that got me thinking.

Some have argued that Read Magic should either be dropped from the game or assumed to be a "free" spell that requires no resources to be expended; in essence, the ability to read magic is built in to every wizard because it's integral to the functioning of the class. Based on that, it makes sense that if wizards are known to be such fragile things then Mage Armour would also be something every one of them is taught as a basic skill.

This goes further than Stuart's request for his wizard; it's not just a SOP for one character, but a feature for the entire class. Yes, it feels a bit strange for the softest class in the game to change and become, by default, tough as old boots, but it makes sense.

(I thought 13th Age did this, because it's the sort of thing 13th Age does, but to my surprise it's not in there. 13th Age wizards can choose an ability that gives them the equivalent of Mage Armour as an additional, automatic, effect when casting other spells, but it's not quite the same.)

It's the sort of thing that would upset D&D purists but I like it.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Glam Metal Adventurers

My current D&D5 character is an elf bard. I decided that the best way to rescue her from the traditional fate of bards -- being dull and rubbish -- was to make her a glam metal bard. This is Althaleeleelee.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Peace Be Upon You!

VimanaramaVimanarama by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overlooked at the time of publication in part because everyone was gushing over the contemporaneous We3, I suspect Vimanarama was also a bit too niche and weird for mainstream -- largely American -- comic audiences. A British-Pakistani protagonist? Ancient Sanskrit epics reskinned as Kirbyesque adventures? Flip-flopping between kitchen-sink comedy-drama and apocalyptic battles? It was probably all a bit too difficult for some to parse back in 2005.

I love it. It feels a bit like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with an ordinary British family -- and nothing seems more ordinary and British than the Pakistani family running the corner shop -- thrust into a genre for which they are not prepared, their personal anxieties and preoccupations clashing with the serious business of magic supermen battling in the skies. Which is, of course, not serious at all, because it's all very silly in comparison to real life. Which is sort of the point. Anyway.

It's also funny, but in an understated, laid back way. There are a couple of jokes and smart quips in there, but the humour arises in most part from people acting like people in the face of great adversity. All of the characters feel real, except for the magic supermen, who are stupid and over the top, but again, that's part of the point.

Philip Bond is one of my favourite comic artists anyway, but he and colourist Brian Miller do a great job. Although Bond has a cartoony style, he nonetheless has a talent for capturing ordinariness that other artists cannot match; yes, his people are cartoons, but they are cartoons of real people, which doesn't make as much sense as I thought it did now I'm writing it down. His style can also accommodate the more fantastical subject matter, and his comic timing and storytelling is perfect.

My only criticism of the book is that the last few pages feel a bit rushed and vague, but then I suppose the story isn't really about those characters and what happens to them, so a brief summary and update is good enough. I'm sorry if that is itself vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.

Anyway. Read Vimanarama. It's great.

View all my reviews

(I'm not sure I will continue to post reviews like this; it's a test of Goodreads integration.)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Short Stuff

While I have been locked inside my house, I have been drawing dwarves for an upcoming Lamentations of the Flame Princess book.

I have been drawing some other things too. More soon.