Friday, 25 December 2015


The plan for our next tabletop RPG game to be inspired by the Fallen London and Sunless Sea and I am really looking forward to that first session where the character and world creation all come into being. With the scheme being to use the Atomic Robo mod for FATE core I have started to think about some character concepts that may be fun to bring to the game from a Cat Lady to Byron Smitherines here. I am really looking forward to playing with aspects and compels again.

I like the brass and and extra steampunky goodness of the second pic, plus the metal Corki moustache - what's not to like about that.

Friday, 18 December 2015


Here is a quick sketch of Martin's character Justinian, our Wood Elf Paladin who has a (perhaps unsettling) passion for combat and carnage. He demonstrates a love for fighting Orcs, but at the same time seems to have a peculiar link to the intentions of the Orc Lord. Anyhow, here is a sketch of the mighty Justinian decked out in the spoils of war against various Orc bands - this is probably looking slightly into the future...

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Team Pic and Manticore Mating

Our game session this week gloriously featured our friendly PC Beast doing some rather frightening mating with a nasty Manticore. We are now looking forward to the babies at some future date - super game :)
We made it out by the skin of our teeth from our first foray into the Stone Thief to land in the path of a giant sea monster. Let's hope we can get the Archmage's weapon to work for us...

Anyhow, here is another pic showing the party. I started just making a Leaph pic, but added the rest of the gang as things developed. Again this was all done in Photoshop on the Surface Pro 3. I did a few sketches first then tried a much faster inking method, Colouring I kept lighter and brighter with only a few shades rather than gradients. Still took ages, but was darn fun.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Heroes Family Portrait and Traits

I posted a WIP shot of the 'inks' for a drawing of our newest adventuring party the other day, well here is the coloured version. Our party is a fascinating little group that will continue its adventures in the depths of the Stone Thief (living dungeon) tonight.

For reference again, these are our 13th Age characters (L-R):
  • Ook: Monk of the Glowing Winds cursed into Gorilla form
  • Archon XIV: Dwarf-forged artificial sorcerer destined to save the 14th Age
  • Leaph: Petalate cleric of the Order of the Wild Rose, pregnant with the High Druid's child
  • Beast: Shape-shifting Druid experiment of the Archmage and the High Druid
  • Justinian: Wood Elf Paladin seeking revenge against the Stone Thief
I tried some of Jesse's colouring and there are lots more bits to be seen in the Slick Entertainment Dev Blog and the stunning live stream on Twitch. Anyhow, while it kinda worked I did throw in a heap more layers to adjust things to get it closer to what I envisaged and smoothed over a few things or added colour adjustment in some places as well. I am not certain whether this darker version is the right end result, but it is still a fun pic that reflect the dungeon crawl we are on.

Everything from start to finish was done in Photoshop on the Surface Pro 3 and took waaaay longer than I hoped and envisaged. That said it was a design, sketch, ink, colour and finish process for 5 characters so maybe it was always going to take a while.

Plus I did start making a 16:9 version of the picture in case that would be useful which is below along with some WIP images as well.


Traits, which perhaps isnt the greatest word to use, but we were mulling over house ruling some aspects of the 13th Age game to draw out elements of our characters while binding together other mechanics already in play. Anyhow, this was the ruleset as written the other day, doubtless it would need tweaking but I like the more character-centric 'aspects' and the more integrated nature of rules around Icons and OUTs etc.

  • 3 Traits per character that replace their Icon relationships.
  • 1+ must be Icon-centric & 1+ must be party-PC-centric
  • When someone’s Trait comes up they get that trait’s Card that can be spent later.
  • Cards are retained between sessions to be spent or accumulated.
  • At the start of each session make Trait rolls, one per trait, a 6 gets you a Trait Card
  • Full House: if a character ever gets 5 Trait Cards a Destiny Bomb goes off, may not be all positive
  • Destiny Bomb = something Dramatic occurs in the world relating to the character - consuming all the cards
  • Traits can be Compelled like FATE Aspects – the GM offers a Deal (for a Card) that something awkward happens.
  • Compells need not be accepted, but doubtless they will be.
  • Spending a Card confers some situational benefit to the hero or their companions that relates to the card
  • Spending a Card can be mechanical (roll recharge, +D6 damage, reroll a skillcheck, gain a recovery)
  • Spending a Card can be anything cool (find an ally, magic item, reputation, aid is coming)
  • Spending Cards confer non-repeating benefits, you can’t gain the same groovy thing over and over
  • Traits may be conversions of Backgrounds that people want to come up in game for good and ill
  • Traits can evolve or change as needed by the character.
  • Traits may encompass or essentially absorb the One Unique Thing
  • Traits should be double edged and phrased as something enticing…
Leaph Example:
  • Fated Destiny of the High Druid’s Unborn Child
  • Her Protectors are like Family
  • The Thorn-Mother is Watching and Judging

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Live and Streamed RPGs

I (and some gamer friends) went to see the last DragonFriends show for 2015 Monday night and had a blast seeing the live antics of a bunch of comedians playing Dungeons and Dragons. The podcast is a riot of course, but that doesn't quite compare with the hilarity of being there live and seeing how much fun is had by all (as well as the extra bits that are cut from the cast).

I didnt get to see these guys at PAX (was in the DMing session) but they clearly picked up a whole new legion of fans following their live panel there. This is actually a pretty special thing we have going in Sydney and I am looking forward to supporting them in 2016. Visit their site to see the cast and to dive straight in and listen to the podcast adventures with special guests included.

The closest to their show I had seen prior to this live was the Dicestormers live panel which was just as funny and ridiculous, particularly with all the zany input from the audience (pacifism, mankinis, fear of cats and lots of cats). The Dicestormers made good use of Syrinscape (because they make it) which is great, still not as amazing as the live music the DragonFriends bring to their show, but we could use Syrinscape in our games whereas getting a live muse is hard. So, another cool Sydney group that has heaps of video and podcasts of a variety of game systems as well.

This idea of watching other people gaming is starting to flourish, maybe on the back of Twitch and the whole streaming scene, but with these tabletop RPGs we are getting something unique as each set of characters and story is new and different.

In that vain it makes sense to have a set of links here to some of the wonders out there that allow us to see inspiring games play out with celebrities, actors, writers, gamers and people in the right place at the right time (Roll+Luck).
Warning: there are so so so many hours of great stuff hiding behind these otherwise innocent looking links:

Critical Roll 
Aquisitions Incorporated
More D&D Streams
Roll20 vids

Thursday, 26 November 2015

FAE Thinking

My only experience with the FATE tabletop RPG was wonderful. Granted we struggled with the system in a heap of ways, but the overall effect was brilliant as the mechanics shifted the game logic into some wonderful narrative directions. Then there is the simplified version, FATE Accelerated - FAE which pairs back some of the system while retaining the coolest pieces.

While I havent played FAE yet (keen to do that though) - one of the tricks that reading the rules presents is having players roll their biggest stat all the time. That is largely because skills are replaced with Approaches which describe how you do something not your inherent skill a the task itself and this approach is what confers the roll bonus. So if you are a Flashy character and you can perform an action in a Flashy way then you get your +3 or whatever to the roll. Is this a problem or will players go with the story and feel of the game rather than the mechanics??

Rob Donoghue from Evil Hat Games has a nice post on this 'Wrestling with FAE' where he posits some thoughts on how to adjust the engine to help. I was thinking last night that another approach might be to instil more flavour into the approaches themselves that enhances the double edged nature of many of the FAE Concepts. So rather than just Clever we have 'Full Geek Out'. Then if a character is only being a somewhat careful then that’s just +1 rather than the full ‘Soooo Precise’ they might otherwise get. So Max +1 unless you go the all out on the approach.

Here is the kind of flavour I was envisaging. Apart from inviting more roleplaying from the heroes, it might hint at different costs for success or impacts from failure:

Quick = Race is On
Clever = Full Geek Out
Forceful = Unleash Raw Power
Flashy = Look at Me, Look at Me
Careful = Soooo Precise
Sneaky = Shadow and Blame



We were talking the other day about giving space for characters to interact with each other during the game itself. Often the 'plot clock' brings its pressure to the game, making incidental conversation or finding out about backstory elements a contested thing when there is some actual big problem or situation which requires the characters attention. Having everyone ok with taking time from the plot pressure to have a side conversation is tricky as it can feel like a distraction, though ultimately awesome. I note that this is really hard to force, having a spot in the game setup for characters to not follow the plot is a sure way for it to not really work out, it should feel natural.
One side aspect of this is the etiquette around multiple conversations going at once. This happens often if the party gets split and some of the characters are discussing how they are going to deal with X while another character is doing something cool on their own. Should we all display enough interest in every player's story to listen to the one conversation at a time or should we allow all these overlapping conversations to flourish - esp if they are all nicely in character??

While we are here, how about a few more interesting Tabletop RPG things that look cool:

Penny for Your Thoughts is very clever for such a simple thing - using some of these ideas in other games for character creation could be fun.
I couldn't resist ordering 'It's Not My Fault' already - even if it is just for inspiration.
Built on the Apocalypse World engine, Masks look great, though I missed the Kickstarter.
Then there is Cloud Dungeon which brings some 'art' to the tabletop RPG experience = sweet.
Another Kickstarter is the English version of Shinobigami which looks dramatic.
Last thing for today is Michtim, I like the idea of emotions being stats.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The New Party

Our new 13th Age campaign is one session old now, with our characters having got through their first fight in the first room of the vast Stone Thief living dungeon. After our recent Tremulus game we decided on a lighter game and some fun characters in a fantasy romp.

Here is the group, and a pretty quirky group of adventurers it is too (L-R):

Human monk cursed to be a gorilla when caught trying to steal the temple's golden bananas

Burly Dwarf-Forged Sorcerer-bot destined to save the 14th Age

Petalate Seal Maiden of the Order of the Wild Rose (healer cleric) carrying the child of the High Druid (my character)

The Beast
Experimental weapon created by an alliance of the Archmage and the High Druid, now escaped and able to transform into different animals, likes dire-bear form (druid)

Wood Elf Paladin with a determination to see the end of the Stone Thief!

The pic was all done on the Surface Pro 3 in Photoshop - starting with a quick pencil layer then lots of hours spent doing my version of inking. This took me way too many hours, I need to find a faster way to get this sort of effect, esp when I am not confident with the lines. I will work on the colouring next and repost with some WIP pics as well another time.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Mad Max

I really loved Mad Max Fury Road in the cinema and while it was still fun at home on BluRay it lacked some of the grandeur of the giant screen. What a fascinating film it is, such a simple plot that is a few hours of incredible car chase with moments of emotional or expositional breathing space slotted in - yet it works oh so well. The cinematics, stunts, colour, music - just a wonderful piece of action and emotion on the big screen.

We actually had Peter Pound, one of the principle artists, in to do a guest lecture for one of the courses here at UNSW Built Environment recently. It was great to not only see the original drawings but to get a better glimpse behind the scenes. As he works principally using traditional media, each revision of the design for say the War Rig was a new drawing - and a beautiful drawing at that.

Peter Pound Concept Piece

Some links to cool things:
Mad Max Fury Road Official Site
Art of VFX Article
WETA Workshop Article


After watching again I am a little more inspired to try the Apocalypse World game in its original setting - the book is superb. Would give us as players a chance to delve deeply into our own version of this style of world, to see how humanity and individuals might deal with such the hardships of such a time...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Lost Childrens Place

It was a relief to get all the work done for our little group's final design project, the design for the Lost Children's Place - a park of healing and well-being for the adult survivors of child abuse. Here is the video that walks through the project from start to finish. This is our grad project which is part of the Masters of Design here at UNWS Art & Design, though I am taking the course to complete my Masters of Digital Media.

The project got such a good response from people who identified with or empathised with the scale and seriousness of the issue and the design we crafted as a response. Taking the notion of 'designing for change' with a suite of research and inspiration we have a scheme that would deliver an uplifting experiential park in Sydney's Domain.

You can see these images in the video as well, but I thought it would be nice to see a few of them again as they were quite fun to create. They were all done on the SurfacePro3 using Photoshop with just some quick sketching, simple inking and washy colouring.

More to come on the other components and the Exhibition as well.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

New 13th Age Game Character

Our group's next tabletop RPG foray will be into the default 13th Age setting including the perils of the living dungeon in The Eyes of the Stone Thief. The party is shaping up to include Justinian the righteous Paladin, Beast a 'failed' experiment between the Archmage and the High Druid (perma beast form druid), a monk and a dwarf-forged 'sorcerer'.

To this mix I am bringing: Impregnate Leaph, Petalate Seal Maiden for the Order of the Wild Rose. She is 6 months pregnant with the child of the High Druid (male in our world) and is off on a pilgrimage that will doubtless lead into the heart of the Stone Thief. Leaph is talented in the ways of healing magic, but her power is really escalating as her child grows. As a level 4 Cleric she is bringing a whole suite of healing and protection for herself and the group. Lots of hooks and unknowns in Leaph's past and future - should be fun. Never played or seen a pregnant character before, so should be entertaining as she has her cravings and endeavours to protect her tummy during the fight sequences.

Here is the current pic for Leaph, done as pencil on paper with a bit of quick photoshop colouring added underneath.

Monday, 16 November 2015

PAX AU x 2

Well, it is a truly sad state of affairs when it appears I am writing a single blog post to cover two years of PAX here in Australia. Setting that hopelessness to one side, lets lift the mood - because PAX is wondrous. While I wasnt at the first one here in Oz, the 2014 and recent 2015 shows were simply overflowing with gaming panels, culture, shopping, playing (tabletop and digital), showfloor exhibitions, cosplay, experiences and more.

Seeing the giant halls and theatres filled with people is pretty amazing and the atmosphere of so many fans of gaming in general is superb. There is just so much to see and do that I linked up and split up with friends throughout each day as our preferences tugged us into different events or panels or zones. Here are a few of the things/places that I got the most from:

RPG Panels

I think the very best panel thus far was the RPG+ panel where the dicestormer gang played a short game (Pathfinderish) with heavy audience involvement. The party each had clothes and traits from the crowd as well as facing trials and dangers spewed forth from the theatre. There was much merriment to be had and much learning of RPG goodness.
Related GMing panels were great as well, hearing stories and ideas from a variety of tabletop RPG styles and GMs.


Seeing so so many tables filled with people playing/trying tabletop and card games of all kinds is pretty amazing. I tried my hand at all manner of things from Dead of Winter to Roll for the Galaxy and many in between.
Penny Arcade's Gabe brought some early play of Thornwatch last year which was great to see at the panel and out in the playtest area. An interesting blend of RPG with a GM as well as deckbuilding.

LoL (champs plus art)

The League of Legends world championships coincided with PAX this year, but last year they were huge, loud and overflowing from their area the whole time. In 2014 it was the OCE Championships and Phreak and co were here to commentate and it was superb to see the atmosphere live and get loot.
They also had an artist there the whole time creating a pretty neat Aussie themed image:

RPG Play and Painting

I have tried out quick intro games for both D&D 5E and Pathfinder. The simplified format for both didnt show off any cool mechanics of the systems at all which was disappointing. In fact I am not sure anything mechanically cool happened in the games - though as players we embellished and I enjoyed both games. My little Kineticist in the Pathfinder game didnt do anything with her offensive spells in the whole game - spending turns moving, preparing or just missing. But I had great fun casting light on my toy Owlbear and using fire to help weld shut a floor grate.
Taking a break from all the action and games, I liked taking time to paint a free mini along with tables and tables of other people. Here is my 2014 magey character with the tables from this year:

All the other stuff

I have really enjoyed other panels on writing, design and getting behind the scenes of some of these amazing games. The Cosplay looks incredible and adds a real life to the event (I feel extra guilty for not trying). Getting to try out games, esp the indie ones is great fun as is just hanging, eating and chatting with fun folk for 3 days. Here are friends Evren and Segah doing their part!:


Since PAX is in Melbourne, that means I also got to see the city for the first time. I liked how easy it was to walk around to everything and even though I was working on my masters project this year in spare moments - both times I liked exploring the place and found some cool architecture along the way. Here are a few photos from my phone showing off the place (incl some Pyrite from the museum which looks insane):

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tremulus Conclusion

Our epic conclusion session in our Tremulus (mod of Apocalypse World) game was last week and there was much drama and doom to be had by all. I wish I (or someone) had the energy to write up each session in some way as the stories that unfolded are quite amazing.

Short campaigns of Lovecraftian inspired investigation of doom are fraught with perils for the characters both physically, psychologically and emotionally in our case. We would often discuss the relative chances of the various characters surviving the ordeal as the risks slowly escalated. With the 'other world' getting closer, the vengeful living oil, and the war between the magical secret societies - there was no place to hide.
This story all went down in Grangemouth, Scotland in 1920 where William Withers (my character) came as an army veteran where he lost his arm in a mysterious incident in the jungles of Malaysia that wiped out his unit. The final session saw him 'riding' the hunter beast from the other world - well more half impaled as it raced back to its obelisk. This is where the titanic battle was raging all around the rest of the characters, Will was certainly showing up, using his battle prowess to ram the beast into the stone taking him out along with the main magical threat.
What followed was a rather gruesome ritual which ended with his name being written on the obelisk and him transforming into the new hunter before the two worlds parted. So he ended the game living out his new role as the other worlds hunter, leaving the other characters dead, traumatised or taking on a new life in the normal world.
I would have liked to have a few more conversations in-game with my character's brother, but he did have a pretty eventful time. Another super game that was chock full of dramatic, doomish, twisted, horrific and uplifting moments.

Here are some sketches I did (on paper) while playing mostly of William Withers himself. The main sketch was near the end as he carried the bloody and unconscious body of another PC to the hospital only to be attacked by the hunter drawn by the blood. Good thing he could fight it with the ancient arrow and his mystical arm.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Cute and Creepy

Working away on a slew of design concepts for the MDM project covering all aspects of our park from building facades and shading elements to lights and key features. One of our ideas is the ritual zone with have people tying blue ribbons to special flowing frames to create a flowing wall of blue. At some intervals these ribbons will be collected (before they get ratty), cleaned and then cut to form the stuffing for toys and cushions that will be available in our on-site shop.

So here is the concept sketch for the toys and cushions 'filled with healing and hope'.

I like how cute the sketch turned out, was done with pencil on paper first and scanned in. Then I did some 'inking' using the SurfacePro3 to give it punch but lost the subtlety of the shading. So I went back with our 'brand blue' using large brushes with a filter applied to get this result.
We will probably use this effect for all the concepts now so in the final report it all hangs together nicely. Here is that pencil sketch if anyone is wondering which I still like - things look cuddlier.

I am hoping people can tell that there is a cushion (with stylised waves/ripples) a koala, a platypus and a spider - nice stylised Australian animals all.


Plus the Tremulus game continues and I did this quick sketch of William's missing arm lifting the ancient arrow we found in the 'other world'...


Oh and League of Legends Worlds is on and is hugely dramatic, exciting and is great to have in the background while working on things!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Battlechasers Contest

I loved the Battlechasers comic back in the day and now that the game is live on Kickstarter it is cool to see the new enthusiasm for it all over the place. One of the things running right now is a community design competition for a creature for the game. I will hopefully find time to do a slightly better render of this, detailing some attacks etc, but felt like posting this WIP pic and some of the great Joe Mad concept art

and these are from the Battlechasers site

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Site Design Sketches

We are having fun with our MDM Lost Childrens Place design project. We are in the design exploration phase as we work through concepts for the various zones in both broad sweeping ideas as well as considered detail. As with any creative endeavour we need to put lots of ideas out there and test them against our criteria and notions of design quality, learn from those we don't like and push the ones we do further.

To that end here are some compilations of various design sketches for the park elements and its primary 5 zones (Reflection, Ritual, Mindfulness, Art and Play). These were primarily just pencil in an A4 art diary scanned in and PSed together.