The Last Zelart

Today I put up the last piece of art from Zel, which was a bit of an emotional experience. Now there’s not going to be any more.

Zel worked with me on a lot of things. Hentacle, Final Straw, Origins of the Specious/Sex, Dice & Gamer Chicks, stock art, even a game I made as a personal present for my friends.  He helped me make a comic – something I always wanted to do.

We’re going to use the residual income from his stock art to make a sort of ‘micro scholarship’. I’m still working out all the details. It’ll be used to help out, even if its just in some minor way, an art student somewhere in the world, once per year. Probably helping those more into the illustration, comic, anime, etc style who can sometimes suffer from academic indifference and disrespect.

Machinations of the Space Princess: Art Preview


A twisted little psion and her friend.

The Big Bad Cthentacle Art Book – RELEASED!



Every gloriously horrible illustration from the entire Cthentacle game line present and correct for ogling and examining without any of that irritating game information getting in the way.

Roll 1d20 for San Loss.

Buy it HERE

Or in full colour hardcopy HERE

ImagiNation Preview


Even childhood heroes may need to find new ways to survive.

ImagiNation Update

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been pre-occupied, obviously.

As well as the more full on illustrations in ImagiNation there will be scraps of notes, observations and sketches from the talented and damaged few that are able to brave the changed mainland. This sketch by Rowena Aitken is one of those, capturing the moment that an artist’s painting is energised and comes to life, emerging from the canvas to – hopefully – do their bidding.

You’ll also get diary entries, ‘post-it notes’ and other scraps of observation from island dwellers and explorers as a way of bringing the setting and all its weirdness to life.

Unfortunately, due to recent issues I’ve slipped behind on talking to people about their rewards from the campaign. The character profiles and the entries. I’ll be getting back in touch as soon as I can but if you want to jump the gun and get in touch before I do, please do.

I just finished writing up the section on mental illness – and how it interacts with the creative abilities – so progress is, once again, being made.

Review: Vornheim

I know people have reviewed Vornheim but to my point of view it’s not, particularly, a book that can be reviewed. It’s more like a work of art or an experience. Like being hooked up to a fire hose of creativity or a cut-up.

There’s only something like 65 pages but it’s dense with material, ideas and inspiration. Even the dust jacket is thrown into use as is the cover of the book itself. There isn’t a corner that isn’t used.

It has a contents but I think it’s best experienced as something to dip in and out of for inspiration. It’s weird, strange and just right for the weirder end of the horror-fantasy that fits Lamentations of the Flame Princess in particular.

There’s a lot of ‘city books’ out there, lists of people, places and things and these can be good but the sheer degree of detail can make them practically unusable unless you play in them often enough for everyone to learn the layout of the fictional city.

The old Night City for Cyberpunk 2020 worked for that but Vornheim takes a better approach, in my opinion, being more of a tool kit, an urban fantasy resource. It provides the main locations but only inspiration and ideas for the other aspects. Vornheim creating the ‘feel’ of the city, rather than its geography. Just as Paris or London have a character all of their own, so does Vornheim and even if you don’t use Vornheim itself, a similar approach can work wonders for any other city you care to create.

I think Zak Smith and the D&D With Porn Stars crew are one of the best things to happen in gaming for a while. A fresh approach and a new perspective, paradoxically tied into the Old School movement. Long may they continue to provide us with cool shit to play with and fresh perspectives.

Style: 5
Substance: 3
Overall: 4

ImagiNation Excerpt: Creativity

In ImagiNation it’s a combination of creative skill and an unconventional mind that gives people their power over the mutable reality of the mainland. They can seem magical, which is almost appropriate given that magic has also been called ‘the art’.

This is a sort of pre-first draft but other than more examples and better wording, not much is likely to change much. If it seems opaque or tricky to understand to you, let me know. Most of the rest of the system will be broadly identical to that found in Neverwhere 3rd Edition.

The Arts

Every character who can enter the mainland is a creator of some kind. It needn’t be their professional talent but rather something inside a person that drives them to create. Even people who are awful at art, or writing or poetry sometimes feel the drive to create regardless. A character who is good at their art will be more powerful and capable but it’s by no means absolutely necessary.

The arts allow a character to shift and change and create, not just on paper or in their minds but, out on the mainland, they can change themselves, change the landscape, even conjure things out of nothing but their own thoughts and passions.


An actor is able to don a mask, a face, the persona and thought structure of another person. They can lie, so well, that they can even believe the lies themselves. An actor is mutable, changeable in how they present themselves and – once they enter the shifting reality of the mainland they can change themselves physically, mentally, absolutely, rather than merely pretending.


An Actor has a pool of points that they can use, the combined bonus of their Acting skill bonus and any appropriate adjectives to their acting capability. During the course of a day the Actor can spend these points on a one-for-one basis to change their adjectives or two for one to add additional adjectives. They’re always able to revert to their normal self.

Even drastic changes or additions are possible, an actor can give themselves claws, for example, or night vision, animal traits or more conventional changes that alter their description. They can even give themselves down traits, just like during character creation, a maximum of another two which can be spent to give positive adjectives.


An architect can envision structures and understand how buildings are put together. They can envision things are they are supposed to be, how they could be and as they are. What is drawn and built in an architect’s mind is often an ideal that never comes to be in reality. This was starkly shown in the 1960s and 1970s when the concrete housing blocks of British cities turned out to be much worse in practice than in theory.


An architect has a pool of points equal to the total of their architect skill and any appropriate adjectives. They can conjure or change the descriptive traits of a building on a one-for-one basis. These points regenerate after a day. A strong door can become a weak door. A dark chamber can become a bright chamber, a ruin can become pristine or the pristine can become a ruin.

If they want to conjure a shelter out of their mind they can do so, describing it with their available traits. Needing a shelter at night, for example, an architect might use their ability to create a ‘Hidden, strong bunker, deep beneath the earth with running water.

They’re a good person to have along.


A dancer moves to time, to a beat, they make shapes with their bodies and create a spectacle of themselves that can evoke wonder and envy. Whatever the form the dance takes it ties one into the beast of the music and when there is no music, one can create their own beat.


A dancer can distort time or fascinate with their gyrations. They have a pool of points based on their dance skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can spend these points in one of two ways:

  1. So long as they dance their audience can be drawn in, fascinated and rendered mute and still until such point as the dance ends. This costs one point from the pool per turn.
  2. The dancer can distort time for themselves, slowing it down or speeding up by a factor equal to the points that they put in. For each point spent they can take an extra turn doing something as they slow time – provided they can work it into the dance.

Music & Singing

Music is one of the less powerful but more wide ranging of the influential arts. Music can make few specific changes to individuals but it can evoke mode, change mode, create or lighten an atmosphere or make it more oppressive. It plays upon the emotions and the resonance of a place in a way that can blanket a whole region.


A musician, provided they have access to their instrument and can play, can use their music to alter the mood whenever they want as many times as they want. There’s no limitation on how often it can be used. When playing music the musician can alter, replace or add to the mood of a location, creating an adjective that anyone can tap into – if it’s appropriate. A place that is frightening, might become amusing. They might play something inspirational or courageous, sound the charge to aid people in a fight. It’s a subtle, but powerful, effect.

Painting & Drawing

Those who paint and draw can create things out of their imagination and bring hem to visible life. Outside the zone this is limited to paper and canvas but within the zone, so long as they can at least sketch, they’re able to bring these things to genuine life.


An artist has a pool of points drawn from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can use these points to draw and create items, even creatures out of nothing. They can also draw doors, windows or other features onto a surface and cause them to become real – at the cost of a single point. In creating something out of nothing the description is made using the pool of points available. For example one might draw out a sketch of a ‘powerful handgun’ and then use that, at the cost of two points. One for the object, one for the description as ‘powerful’.


Poets have a facility for artful language and for rhyme and meter. A poet plays with language as a writer constructs it. A poet can work their words in their mind, without the need to jot them down to make them work.


A poet can freely change any word in any description, even that of other people, to a synonym. Strong can become powerful, fast can become speedy. This is a subtle but potentially very powerful effect as it can tailor a description to very specific circumstances. For a point from their pool (poetry plus adjectives) they can change any word from a description to its rhyme. A ‘violent’ beast may, thus, become a ‘silent’ beast, a ‘dangerous’ man a ‘timorous’ man, and so on.


A writer has a powerful way with words and can use them to evoke almost anything, to spin the imaginary into a form people can see in their mind’s eye or to create an evocative description that can make something more real or convey it in a way even pictures cannot. Within the zone, provided that a writer can scribble down their thoughts on a scrap of paper or in the dirt, they can have a wide-ranging, but somewhat unpredictable power.


The writer creates a pool of points from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can freely change words for their synonyms – one per turn – just as the poet can and they can conjure objects or creatures out of thin air as an artist can, but at a cost of two points per adjective. The most powerful thing a writer can do is to narrate. They can – within reason – describe something that happens, spend a point, and have it happen. For example: “Without warning, the roof collapsed upon the gunman…”

Please Stop Selling Bad Art

Wait. I’m the bad guy?

You’re not good enough yet.

Really, you’re not.

I know that people are always out for cheap art to illustrate their RPG projects and that not everybody’s presentation is professional or even semi-professional. I tend to go for fairly simple, minimalist layouts for that reason but please…

Stop selling your bad art.

Any schmuck can put together wooden looking poser dolls and anyone can trace an outline. You’ll get better with practice but that horrible scratching you’re selling for a buck a throw? It’s doing everyone harm, including you.

How is it doing harm?

1. You’re giving yourself a bad reputation – Get a rep for shitty art and people will stop looking and checking.

2. You’re pushing product off the front page of sites like RPGNOW – If you’re throwing up shitty sketches twice a day you’re contributing to product churn and pushing worthy product off the front page. The front page is important advertising for people with new product. Books that take months to put together are being knocked out of view by your napkin doodles. Stop it.

3. You’re depressing the acceptable price of stock art and flooding the market with crud. – That makes it hard to search through and find the good stuff and the price of stock art is already low, very low, compared to direct commissioning.

Now, what constitutes crap art is very subjective. I’m not saying everything has to be perfect and the ‘dodgy doodle’ can even be a stylistic choice for some games trying to capture to old-skool feel. There’s a few things you can do though, even if you can’t stop:

Being Less Crap:

1. Find honest people to give you honest, critical feedback.

2. Consolidate your releases. Don’t release ten, individual, shitty pieces of art for a buck each. Put them together in a collection and sell them. The good pieces will stand out, you won’t flood the front page so much and you’re providing value and giving yourself space to practice.

3. Do spot illustrations. Spot illustrations don’t have to be as good, typically and if they’re a little rough they just recall classics like Fighting Fantasy books or old adventure modules.

4. If you can’t do spot illustrations, do graphical elements, textures, things like that are always useful and you don’t need to be OMFGBRILLIANT to make something useful.

Now, I’ve also become aware of rumours about a disturbing trend amongst other small RPG companies. Reselling artist’s work as stock art.

This is a ‘Dick Move'(tm). Don’t do it. Let’s be honest here, most of us cannot afford what the work of these artists is worth. Allowing them to retain right of resale and reuse of their art or allowing the rights to revert after 3/6/12 months is a way we can help compensate for being cheapskates.

The stock art that I sell is commissioned AS stock art from the artists involved and includes highly detailed and highly stylised art depending on the artist. If I’m selling stock art money is going to the artists and I’m providing a central clearing house with, what I hope, is a good reputation for decent art. I’m not taking advantage as I fear some companies and individuals may be.

Don’t treat artists like crap and if you are an RPG artist I think you should be asking for these rights and finding places to sell your art – after rights revert – to help you squeeze a living out of a tough business. At this point, honestly, this should be standard procedure for small press.

TLDR: Don’t sell shit, don’t be a dick, re-sell your art yourself.

RavenArt: Steampunk RELEASED

Cheaply priced stock-art useful for your Steampunk, alt-historical or even planetary romance games.

Get it HERE