First Impressions of Veins of the Earth

If I lived in a world where time wasn’t a thing, where there was enough time in the day to do dad and husband things, work, read, play, and nap; I would blog more. Like yesterday you all were talking about the most boring class and cleric kept coming up and I could probably do ten thousand words about how clerics are boring because the class usually idolizes the god and the god’s plan, but not the ritual, and how if your cleric was mechanically steeped in a tea of swinging thuribles, church politics, self doubt, and sacrifice, they’d be more fun. Replace healing touch with some sacrament wine of healing, you’ll be on the right track. I ran out of time though.

If I had more time I would write a post about sycophancy and how more often than not, when someone claims that a success is because of sycophancy then they are dismissing the ability for swaths of people to digest something intelligently, on their own. The post would talk about how sycophancy spreads and how intelligent people can be brain-numbed into just blindly throwing out a thumbs up, but at the end of the day claiming success (in RPGs, anyways) via sycophancy is probably more often the mutterings of someone who says “I can do that but better” but then doesn’t do that. “Sycophancy is real but probably rarer than we think” would be my first sentence maybe.

I watched this GDC talk from Mark Rosewater (who wrote some episodes of Roseanne, and also a few game things) where he talks about lessons he learned in designing Magic the Gathering and one of the lessons was about how a game can be widely liked and not be successful; but a game needs at least a few people that love it to be successful. My post on sycophancy would tie back into the video and say something about how if everyone is saying nice things about an RPG book that our first move shouldn’t be moaning about all the people trying to look cool by liking the cool thing: it is really possible for a gripful of people to like something because it’s good and it is possible that those people arrived at that point with their own brain-thoughts. We can have success, we should make books without suffering impostor syndrome, we can make money and all of us can like the same thing. It’s totally okay. I think what happens is that something comes out and everyone is like “yep that’s cool” and then 3 people are like “i fucking love this more than my own mom” and we only hear those 3 people and then there is some signal to noise problems and we accidentally hear sycophancy. Well, we need those 3 mother-hating-lovers because that’s how everyone else learns about the thing in the first place. Those 3 people probably have informed opinions on the thing they love. (*)

At any rate this is all because I thumbed through Veins of the Earth and it’s really good so far (to start: the introduction should be put in the MLA handbook and labeled How To Introduce Your Elfgame) and it bums me out to know that there will be people saying that I only like it because someone else liked it. I want to be someone who goes on to talk about how good this is without being accused of trying to cuddle in bed with some dreamy, popstar RPG author. Even more so, I don’t like the idea that people who comment on this post to agree with me might also be accused of liking it to be part of the crowd (or vice versa. If you hate this book it’s fine, just don’t hate it simply because someone else likes it, and if you see someone hating the book don’t accuse them of hating them it because you like it, ask them why they hate it). More so, what I am trying to say is let’s not use this book as a weapon to divide one another in to groups we don’t give a shit about.

If you’re looking for an opinion from someone who doesn’t buy every LotFP thing there is (that’s me, I don’t care for the baked in setting but I do like the rules I guess) then here is my opinion: Veins is going to be a great read and a great visual experience. By far my biggest gripe so far is that I wish Scrap had done the character sheet. I’d really like to see her aesthetic blanketed over something meant to be a tactile utility. (The sheet does look good as is, don’t get me wrong) I’ll be reading through the rest of it this week instead of sketching during coffee, but here are some initial thoughts:

The prose is good. Real good. This is the kind of RPG stuff I like; while I do prefer rules light systems I prefer a heavy wind bagging of flavor to carry it. Patrick does a good job of meandering about his ideas but doesn’t drive off the cliff. I think something more RPG books could learn from is to use the actual world to describe the fake world much better; one of the monsters sounds like radio static. I know exactly what that sounds like. Am I going to play a game where there are radios? Not like to, really, (love my fantasy tropes) but if I were at the table I would totally describe something as sounding like radio static and the first player to say “dude I am a medieval elf what’s a radio” would be uninvited to my birthday party. So if you’re wondering if this book is written to be used at the game table, or if it is to be used on the coffee table I would definitely say it can be used at the game table. I don’t have a coffee table but I do use big books to press my scanner lid down.

The art is also real good, although some of the smaller page-decorative art falls a little short. I think the cover should be have been the illustration on p217. Scrap shines when given the room to do so which I think is a pretty interesting thing to think about when also thinking about a book about tight dark spaces. The book is full of art. This book is beautiful. Her art is jarring and striking and you can use the same words to describe cave walls and dark-place-feelings as the words used to describe the illustration.  The layout is spot on, but my brain does have trouble switching from the striking hurried illustrations to the mechanized diagrams. But that’s on me, not the team for this book.

The encumbrance rules are really good, almost like a step up from the inventory management from Diablo, but not stepping into the realm of doing math to figure out how much shit you can stuff in your pocket without walking slow. Oh I also really like the 100 caves section a lot. I think that this book could use 50 more pages of mechanized RPG system, and it could have been it’s own game. If it were my job to turn this into an RPG I would make it so that you picked your race and your class by thumbing through the book and finding anything you like and then you be that.

Another thing this book is doing that I love: selling really well. The best of the best in the DIY scene is getting better and better, and selling better and better. This is nothing but a net positive for RPGs. This book means that when David’s Behind Gently Smiling Jaws finally hits (I’m glaring at you David) it is going to have an even wider audience.

(* disclaimer: yes, people buy shit based only on the fact that an author or illustrator or musician they love created it; they buy it before they read reviews or steal it or whatever: this isn’t sycophancy, this is called being a fan)

Veins of the Earth via LotFP / DriveThru.

That GDC talk from the guy who wrote some Roseanne and other stuff.

It’s Been Too Long

And it’s going to be longer. Sorry. I haven’t update this in a while and that’s because I have been swamped with Hex Kit. I totally skipped, like a fucking idiot, updating my site while working through the Hex Kit Kickstarter. And I’ve manage to sign myself up for so much work after getting Hex Kit out that I am afraid I’m going to forget about this site again. But I am going to try to get back into painting maps for fun and putting them here. And also some more non map shit, I’d like to definitely get some more non map stuff here. At any rate, this is what’s going on in my life:

Continue Reading

The Future Of Hex Kit


A few days ago I started a thread on google plus about Hex Kit; I asked how useful some super light weight, hex mapping software would be. Generally people were way into the idea of Hex Kit getting it’s own software, since it isn’t compatible with existing software. So I typed up a proposal, sketched some UI shit, and then sent it to my buddy Ross Squires (founder of RPG Talk) who, within a week, sent me an alpha build of the thing. Amazing. I made the maps in this post with it this morning. So this post is about what I want from what I am going to call Hex_Kit.exe for now.

Nothing is promised; this is speculation.

I want it to be super feature light. There is other map mapping software around (like the very impressive Hexographer and the coming-soon Worldographer) that I don not want to feature-compete with. I want this thing to be the Mario Paint of map making software. The idea is that you’ll be able to make maps on the fly with very little work, and also be able to store information about the world in the map. Hex_Kit.exe will be as simple as selecting a terrain or style and slapping it down. You’ll be able to open the program, select a size, and paint a new map or generate then edit a random one. This isn’t going to come with super advanced features like climate based world generation, or a feature where it brews you a pot of coffee. My goal is to offer software that is basically just easier than using GIMP. (I keep calling it Hex_Kit.exe, but it will be available on Windows, Mac, and Linux)

The software will also be usable at the table; if you have a second video output (like another monitor or a projector) you’ll be able to show a player-facing version of the map with things hidden and fog of war. You’ll be able to export it in print friendly format as well as screen friendly format. You’ll be able to label parts of your map too. Again, none of this is promised or set in stone. Just design goals.

And that’s it: Hex_Kit.exe will be a simple way to make hex maps. It will be cheap, too: we want to offer it at a pretty low price so we will be kickstarting the development some time at the start of the year, and we’re going try to have it ready to ship within just a few months after that. If we can make an influx of cash up front, then we won’t have to sell it at a high price later on. This will be low-risk kickstarter, and if we don’t fund I am going to keep making hex kit the way it is now, with no software.

Here is one thing I do promise: if you’ve bought Hex Kit on DriveThruRPG, then you won’t have to buy the art again. Once the software goes live, the art work and software will be available separately (but together in the kickstarter). The kickstarter will have an option to back the project cheaper because you already have Hex Kit. The zip file will get updated to provide the files in the format needed to the software.  If you bought Hex Kit with Roll20, then the only thing I can promise is that I’ll see what I can do. Those files are prepped lo-res and smaller than normal, and updating them on Roll20 will break everyone’s maps.

Is this interesting to you, but you’ve never heard of Hex Kit? Click here to get it. (Watch the video on the product page)

For the arts!

When Hex_Kit.exe is live, the art and software will be separate. Other artists will be able to sell (or make free) their own compatible hex tiles and the plan is for us to never ever take a cut of that. There will not be a marketplace, or a way to buy tiles in the software, so artists will have to deliver their art on their own and, hopefully, users will just have to drag a folder into another folder to get them working. We’ll get a template out in the public for other artists to use to make their tiles, and hopefully that will be available within the next few weeks.

My goal is to get as much art into the kickstarter as possible; I will personally paint 5,000 hex tiles to choose from out of the gate, including the sci fi sets and the forest floor set. I have also started work on an old-school black & white set as well!

At any rate, that’s the future of Hex Kit. My hope is to get this in the hands of lots and lots of people, maybe not just people playing RPGs but people prototyping CRPGS or people who just love world building.I’m also excited to be working with Ross and his buddy Pierre, they are good guys and both are RPG enthusiasts. If you want to keep up with the development process, you can follow me on twitter and ross on twitter.

Unfinished Project: Random Dungeon Maker

I have a bunch of unfinished projects that will never be finished. There is lots of blog drafts and artwork hanging around, and I want to attempt to get some of them out there without actually finishing them. So here goes.

The image below (click to biggen) is an 8 inch by 8 inch grid of dungeon rooms and also some vertical and horizontal room connectors. Along the left side and top of the dungeon rooms are coordinate numbers; think in battleships terms. To generate a random dungeon you would have two d8s, of separate color, that represented each axis, and you’d roll the d8s to see what room you got. Most of the rooms are single inch grid spots but quite a few extend into multiple grid spots. If your roll was any part of the large rooms then that would be the room you got. For example: if I rolled a 3&4 or 4&3 or a 4&4 I would get a pretty cool large room, but a 7&4 is a small boring room. (x&y).

I didn’t finish this project because I couldn’t think of a decent way to generate doors and all that stuff, and I honestly lost any interest in the project a while ago. So here it is for you to take and remix and expand upon and all that shit. Just don’t sell the artwork and you can do whatever you want with it.


Hex Kit Volume One: Fantasyland is finally here. Finally.

HEX KIT-page001Hex Kit Volume One: fantasyland is finally here.

Holy shit folks, it is finally available on DTRPG and Roll20.  This is the my first solo project to hit the market, and I couldn’t be more happy with the results.  If you’re coming here for the first time, Hex Kit was a summer long art project I took on in between map commissions.  The last two weeks of production though, I hit it super hard and the kit grew to double in size and scope.  I also only spent like 20 hours in those two weeks sleeping.  It is a collection of 1,000 hand drawn, hand painted hex tiles.  You use them to make your own hex maps! The purchase comes with both 200 DPI single tile files, and 600 DPI tile sheets for print quality maps.

I’ve spent so much time hyping this project up  I don’t even know what to say about it.

Like I said, it is a lot of hex tiles you can use to make your own maps.  It works best in GIMP or other photo editing software.  It also works really well in Roll20 if you don’t mind resizing things.  Which you have to anways because I think there is a resizing bug in their system right now.  I made some really dumb tutorial videos that you can watch to see how easy this thing is to use.  Here is the tutorial for GIMP and here is the tutorial for Roll20.

Before I talk about how this pack came to be, I want to thank a few people: my gal pal Shasta, who stayed up all night with me on a couple of occasions digitizing the art work and making sure I didn’t crash.  I want to thank Ross for putting together RPG Talk and everyone who hangs out in there; you guys are total babes who didn’t let me quit when I really should have just quit. Scott and Meredith over at DTRPG are also babes, they took my bug report seriously and made sure this project didn’t get lost because of it. If you’ve heard about Hex Kit, but don’t know me, that is probably thanks to Brad. I owe you some smooches brad.  Stellarwolf needs a big high five too, he was a voice of reason and support when it looked like I wouldn’t be able to bring support to Roll20, so if you’re using it there and you see him on the forums give him some love.  Also I want to thank Frank Ocean for releasing ‘Blond’ when he did, getting me through the tough times.

More info after the jump.Continue Reading

My debut as a writer of RPG things.




Today Insupposable Instruments is released on DriveThru RPG.  You can nab it here.  Rob tasked Nat Webb, Jerry LeNeaveAndrew Follet, and myself with writing the Demon Lord item book.  The 2e book of artifacts is one of my most favorite RPG books of ever, so I jumped at the chance.  In my head I was like “I got this shit” and the four of us got on some Facebook chat and basically decided it would be a free for all; we’d write all of our shit and then meet up later for high fives and milk shakes and Rob would shower us in money.

What happened is everyone met the month deadline just fine, but instead of splitting up the word count Rob asked for, each of us wrote nearly the word count independently.  I originally only wrote like 5 items and danced past the word count waving my middle finger around like Mr. Bean driving through LA. Because I had never written for any kind of professional anything I was anxious to impress and I included a random, wandering merchant table.  I assumed it would get cut, along with my items, and that would be out of the book but it would be a cool thing to hold on to anyways.  I wouldn’t have written it otherwise.  Writing the table was a lot of fun, and my items were super loquacious but lots of fun to write as well.  In my head I figured everyone else on the project had writing creds, so I needed to impress them and be a hero.  I assembled everyone’s stuff and sent it to Rob, who made some changes and sent it back to us.  All my items had been cut.   He wanted more items and a few other things like owning businesses and property.  In the revised manuscript all but one of my items were gone; not because they were bad but because they were outside the scope of the project.  Rob wanted something  like a ledger of things, and I was writing forbidden and gnarly artifacts forged in the bowels of the earth or something.  They were too complicated, too wordy.  The lesson I learned here is that it is okay to ask questions about shit.  Get all of your questions answered before you sit down to write; it isn’t because you don’t write good but because it doesn’t matter how well you write if you’re writing the wrong thing.

But he really liked the table of merchant situations!  He asked me to expand it a few more entries, and we added a bunch more items to the book and that’s what you get today. So yeah, my main contribution to the book isn’t even items.  But hey, the book is full of really cool stuff for any RPG and not just Demon Lord.  It even includes some simple business/property owning rules you can stitch into your elfgame campaign.  Check it out, a lot of good stuff went in and the gents who worked on it are very good looking and run very fast.  And they can dunk.

Hex Kit Volume I is coming!

a small selection of tiles, working in roll20

I haven’t had a chance to update in a while; I’m sorry, okay!  I think it is pretty well known by now that I update my tumblr more than this website.  That is ’cause tumblr is a better platform for getting WIP pictures of projects out, and because I prefer to only show finished junk here if I can. As well, 99% of the maps I draw or paint are for commercial projects and I cannot just start sharing them willy nilly.  At any rate, here is a project I am working on: HEX KIT: VOL I

In the next two weeks, I will be releasing into the wild, 500+ hex tiles to use with roll20, yer printer, or your favorite imaging software (or even mapping software).  Each hex is unique and hand drawn.  You can see here a super small sampling of the offering, working in roll20.  When I say 500+ unique tiles it involves a lot of terrain options, as well as unique location markers.  For example, on the   image to the left there is 1 visible jungle tile, but there is actually 21 to choose from.  There are 42 mountains, 42 hills, etc.  It is a lot, and I think that the final hex count will be well past 500.  We’ll see.

This is a tall order!  But I wanted to wait until it was nearly done to share.  The hex tiles will be available on the roll20 market place for a small fee.  They will also be available on Drivethru RPG for a slightly larger fee.  The larger fee is because the DTRPG package will include print ready tiles as well as web ready tiles.  That basically means DTRPG will come with two files for each hex, a screen friendly version and a print ready version.

These tiles will be available for personal use only, but a commercial use license will be available the same day the kits go live.  Also coming that day:

– A video explaining how to use the tiles in roll20 (currently a bug resizes the things, but there is a simple workaround)
– A video explaining how to stitch these suckers together in GIMP (which is free image editing software)
– Something explaining how to use these in hexographer (which is apparently a hexmap making tool I just learned about today)
– A catalog PDF with all the tiles in it to help you pick out the right, most best lookin’ ones.
– Some sort of party where if more than 5 people buy this I will have a beer after my wife and kid go night-night.

I am pretty much stoked-as-shit for this project.  Here is a picture of what my desk looks like, covered in sheets of these tiles.




I am a little jaded about Free RPG Day this years. The first reason is that my LGS didn’t participate.  Another reason is because I didn’t have a baby sitter, and trying to keep a four year old calm while you pretend to be in a murderhole is really hard.  The real reason is because, long story short, after the comic book day RPG event I got a hold of Free RPG Day to see if the library could get a kit. This was their response:

“Libraries don’t sell RPGs. The kits are meant as sales tools to help drive purchases through those stores that carry the products promoted in the kits.”

That is the message they sent me. I decided not to send the dickhead response I had spent an hour writing up and let it go for now. Then all of a sudden a few days before FRPGD everyone in the scene is talking about how FRPGD kind of misses the point, and I agree. I do not think Free RPG Day shouldn’t be trying to bring more sales to stores, but I think the whole thing is misguided.Continue Reading

Dangerous Thing: Eye Flies


The eye fly is commonly found in the most unkempt of places; the inn with the worst reputation, the brothel under the docks, the king’s secret and personal torture chamber hidden in the walls.  If you spend at least eight hours sleeping in an exceptionally dirty location then  you are likely to fall prey to an eye fly crossing the surface of your face.  Roll 1d12, on a 1 you have played victim to the eye fly’s searching.

An eye fly will lay a dozen microscopic eggs in the left most canthus of your eye, where your tears rest and have the sweetest taste. In a day they will hatch into eye flay maggots.  It will take them 1d6 days to eat out the surface the inner eye socket.  Eye fly larvae are marked by a grey, stiff body covered in oily black hairs that will scrape and tear all it touches, causing a penalty to checks related to seeing clearly. In the middle of that infectious period the larva will chew through the nerve stem of your eye, severing the connection and letting loose your eye to roll across the floor.

On the final day of the infection the larva will have completely aged into adulthood, and fly from the socket of your eye like bats from a bell tower at twilight.