Friday, 13 September 2013


The recent ImagineFX issue 100 included a loose graphic run down of the results of their reader poll for Favourite Fantasy Artist. We get a nicely Google+ or Win8ish layout of all these wonderful artist's work featuring original concepts and many famous characters as well. The winner was Genzoman, who brings a manga feel to things that is less common on the pages of the mag.

So I thought it was was worth showing off a few interesting pieces of his work from his deviantart gallery - just to lure you there to see more! I like the nice angular styling that emphasises the pose or motion as well as the muscle/tone and fashion in a sensuously exaggerated comic way. Add to that the colour that is bold and playful and his pieces are instantly eye-catching.

[Genzoman illustrations via his amazing deviant art gallery]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

RPG Thinking

Ok, so there are many types of gaming that are all enthusiastically trying to take over my brain and that has got to be a good thing. Whether it be one of the myriad of computer game experience types which are vying for my affections - most notably at the moment Guild Wars 2, SimCity and maybe Civilization V. There are a mighty suite of tabletop boardgames that are doing a super job of bringing friends together. Whether they are large sweeping narrative epics like Arkham Horror, party-like in the vain of King of Tokyo and everything in between there is lots of fun to be had.

SIDE NOTE: 3 player game of Red November last night saw our little sub falling apart in the last few minutes before the rescue team arrived. While we had survived many near misses that could have destroyed the ship outright, the main threat seemed to be our continuing plunge into the murky depths. There were pipes and rubble blocking almost all the hatches as our hull creaked from the pressure. Two Gnomes were dispatched to the engine room yet again to try and stop the descent, lets just say the engines were no better for them staring at them blankly. The last Gnome was sitting holed up in near the front of the sub as the rescue crew arrived, they knocked loudly hoping we still lived, but right then the hull buckled, crushing rooms, corridors and machines - and slaying the last survivors at the very last moment...
(yep, drew an increase pressure track by 2 card as the last card in the game to slay us all!)

Anyhow, while there are a range of games that are exploring the space between the normal boardgame and a tabletop roleplaying game (Descent 2E or Mice and Mystics) I am keen to go the whole hog and try out this highly creative medium. I played and GM'd many moons ago and have very fond memories of those times. I played a few sessions of Dungeon World and while I didn't fully get this new style of game I am really keen to explore it further.

There are a few places this might lead. First off joining in a game of 13th Age as a player, let loose the mighty Tentacle Dwarf ready for the fight with hammer and shield. This group are very experienced RPGers and since they are DnD 4E veterans they can help me get up to speed with the 13A logics, though the Fighter in our playtest was simple enough.

Secondly there is a little swarm of interested people around here who are either like me who had played in the past and are looking at another go, or they are intrigued and willing to try this roleplaying thing. Game-wise I have two options I am toying with to run (is it possible to run two??). The first is Star Wars: Edge of the Empire which I have (plus lots of the cool dice and a box of miniatures) and then Dungeon World. Both look super fun and I am hoping I can run them in a largely collaborative storytelling fashion - as in minimal prep from me apart from glorious hosting.

Really, little or no prep? Yes, that is my goal, and both games come with some mechanics to make that possible whether it is the very logic of DW's question asking or the SWEotE obligations. On top of that the games I would like to run would encourage creativity from the players. Not just in the description of their actions, but in the details that flesh out the world or galaxy. Where did this new Merchant come from, why are they offering such a high price and why are the other merchants slowly pulling back out of the room...
Choosing between these two at present I love the collaboratively unfolding tale logic of Dungeon World and the artifacts (including narrative dice) of Star Wars. There is a strange disembodied voice coming from my left shoulder saying "try both, try both, try both" shhhhh. Gah!

Lets just sign off this rambling post with the latest Acquisitions Incorporated videos from PAX 2013 which is using DnD Next (also a somewhat tempting system). Note these vids probably should come with some sort of content warning, apart from that they are fun examples of mechanical roleplay and also players embellishing the drama through a willing GM (love the bard!).

I think it is worth mentioning how well the strong and stereotyped characters work in the context of a 'party' like this. The drama that flows from the contrast between warriors, clerics and casters, dwarves and elves, brutal, sneaky and charming. Having a strong decisive character can help everyone understand who they are and that they are different to the rest of the party in how they live through the game world.


I should sneak in a comment at the end here that when trying to get to sleep ideas for campaign worlds keep pouring into my brain. Whether there is a large research corporation thrown into disarray where factions from everywhere are closing in to claim their piece of the fractured and all too secretive research facilities. Or is the famed Thousand Hands Inn which lines its walls with the severed hands of enemies claimed from far and wide, their mark of safety yet a red flag to evil if they wish to take this small corner of the land.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Artist Anthony Cerniello has crafted a pretty remarkable video, Danielle. He took the opportunity at a family reunion to capture generations of people and then use the most similar of them as a starting point for his animators to create this seamless ride through the ageing process.

There is such loving attention to detail here with the gentle life added to the character, keeping everything calm and allowing the casual change to slowly wash over her for the full 5 mins. I would love to see a behind-the-scenes look at how this was made - how do you inject that much natural life into photos and keep it all hanging together so nicely. Bit more info on the process in the Colossal article.

So somehow a suite of photos can be transformed using After Effects, 3ds Max and Nuke to create this!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Tentacle Weapons

After a quick combat playtest of three 13th Age characters up against 3 basic orcs I am understanding much better now. As my Tentacle Dwarf was really rather gruff and we had a Wizard and a Bard I elected to build him as a Fighter to give us some combat staying power. One thing that was painfully apparent is that missing in combat is no fun at all - so will look more closely at the traits and maybe take one that lets him deal with failure better. Our little party survived that test encounter ok and I liked being very tanky, holding things at bay while the escalation die pushed things in our favour.

Here are a few concept sketches of dwarven weapons inspired by the history of the tentacle dwarves. You can see the iconography of the tentacle on the warhammer and the sinking mountain and the tunnels beneath on the shield. I like the double-helix on the hammer - slight nod to the mutation that afflicts their people.
The mace was an idea where the dwarf liked to build in pieces of rock, gems, crystals, metal and bone into the surface and then thump things with it (more a cleric weapon though)

Monday, 9 September 2013

ENODO, Procedural Worlds and a Parkour Vid

ENODO's Real-time Work
The guys at ENODO in France are "Designing Virtual Realities for Real-Life Business Applications" and using tools like CryEngine to create visualisations, simulations and more. Here is their showreel and some images from the site showing off some of their CryEngine work:

[ENODO CryEngine work via their official site]


Big Robot Procedural Worlds
Fascinating to hear the work being done by the Big Robot guys as they explore how to generate game worlds procedurally. I love the idea of taking things like Nethack to a new level - that randomised game environment but with all the latest ideas playout out. This video is of their Unite Nordic 2013 presentation where we get to see an array of cool stuff starting with the Lodestone engine that could generate an infinite voxel world for them in 2012. Then we get In Ruins which set about taking the Roguelike logic into a more lush 3D explorable world. This was the leadup to Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

Mmmm robots hunting humans for sport in an open nicely Brittish randomised world...

Mirror's Edge Parkour Vid
Seeing these zany athletes whipping their way around a cityscape Parkour style is quite incredible. This little video by James Kingston (Ampisound) gives us a full Mirror's Edge ride in 'first-person' through the roofscapes and back alleys of Cambridge. Art becomes game becomes more art...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tentacle Dwarf

As we get closer to kicking off a 13th Age campaign we are all thinking up character ideas and concepts. One of the races in Fire Haven are the 'tentacle dwarves' who have been deformed by the taint that still plagues the New Dawn World. So one concept under development is to take one of those refugee dwarves and craft a slightly bitter yet proud adventurer (cleric or fighter). I will look at whether their shield or mace/warhammer might actually be a mutated arm as well.

Here is a SBPro sketch of how a single large tentacle might work.