Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Various updates, and The Dare Development: Part I

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Lots of stuff going on here at the Studio. Let’s get to it all:

Hudson & Brand is in production at the printer, thank the Ancient Ones. We finally got all the pre-press problems taken care of, and the Standard edition is getting sent out to backers as I type this. The other editions are also on their way- I received my copies in the mail last week, which included the Curator edition. 

Fear’s Sharp Little Needles is damn close to being done. I received the last piece of art from Reuben Dodd, so that part of the book is complete. The last assets I’ve been waiting for are the maps; unfortunately, Stephanie (who’s also doing the maps for the book) came down with pneumonia, and is going to be out for a couple of weeks recovering. And I’m awaiting several maps from her, so this will delay things on that front.

The silver lining in this situation is that it’ll give me more time to do some tweaking and improvements to the book, and give FSLN some more spit and polish.

Development for the first expansion for Feed the Shoggoth! continues apace. I’ve run a few play test sessions now, and the new cards are working out better than I hoped. I’ve been working on the final artwork for them, and making rules adjustments as they come up during testing.

There will be more play testing in the coming couple of months, but I’m feeling pretty confident that what I’ve got now helps really enhances the gameplay, and puts some new twists on the base game (summoning a second shoggoth to the table really changes the Cult Leader’s actions, for example…).

To whet your appetite, here are previews of three of the cards that will be in the new expansion:

 

 

 


The Dare Development Journal Entry #1:

An upcoming project I have is dong the design and layout for The Dare, a scenario originally written by Kevin Ross, which will be released by Sentinel Hill Press (you can read much more about the book here). I’ve just begun work on it, and I thought it would be neat to try another series of entries to detail the process of assembling this book.

The process begins in two ways; one is the technical side of things, and the other is artistic. For the technical side tasks like putting a template together, setting overall margins for the pages, selecting fonts, and so on are handled at this point. 

As for all things artistic, that side began with several conversations with Bret, head of SHP and of this project. Bret wants a very retro look and feel, both to evoke the horror movies and video rentals of the 80s, but also the classic Call of Cthulhu books from that same era. Hence, a combo of stripped down, minimalist design, with a dash of 80s videotape horror thrown in.

So the first thing I did was pull some old CoC books off my shelf (Fatal Experiments, Blood Brothers, Escape From Innsmouth, etc.) to get an idea of how to proceed from that angle. ITC Benguiat is the font that was used pretty much exclusively for headers and chapter titles. Page decoration from these times is virtually non-existent, and the formatting used is very basic.

Some classic books I grabbed to guide me in emulating the look-and-feel of the Chaosium Golden Age…

 

But I still want to have some sort of look-and-feel that helps immerse the reader, and make some visual reference to the scenario itself. TV static, for whatever the reason, felt right (and ties in the cover art that looks like a VHS tape rental cover), but also a little too plain and generic. Well, my muse whispered, the main antagonist in the scenario is a [REDACTED], so why not put some [CENSORED] in the page decoration too? And perhaps part of the decrepit house where the bulk of the scenario takes place? I discussed all these ideas with Bret, who gave his stamp of approval.

Here’s an example, warts and all, of the very very first pass of the page design. Not much to it, as you can see:

 

I don’t yet have the house image, but I’ve done the other work listed above. I do know that I’ll want to tweak things from how the design and layout was done for the Call of Cthulhu books originally. For one, I don’t like how the page numbers are right up against the book title in the page headers, and box text tended towards using a serif font, and I’ve always been a firm believer that there should be a definite difference between the box text and the main text.

That’s all for now. Be seeing you!

 

Pre-press follies (or: how to cause yourself unending grief)

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

It’s now the end of January, and Hudson & Brand still hasn’t quite gotten to the finish line, although it’s damn close. We’re at the stage of the game where we’re trying to get things squared away with the printer, and it’s been a…struggle. Without boring you with the details (do you really care about the difference between PDF and PDF/X, or different image compression settings? No? I thought not.), there’s been quite a bit of back and forth, leading to corrections, adjustments, re-processing of files (which take quite a while, especially with all these different versions)…but the short of it is that i think we’re good now. Right now, Stephanie is awaiting the arrival of the proof copies for approval (and for me to give my stamp as well). I sure as shit hope they turn out okay.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing work on Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, and it’s coming along nicely. In fact, i’m in a bit of a holding pattern while i await some more art and map assets. And i managed to enlist the services of the masterful Dean Engelhardt to create the handouts. I’ve already seen some previews of them, and they look fantastic (as usual).

Also meanwhile, I’ve wrapped up another book for Pelgrane Press- this one is a supplement for the 13th Age RPG, called Book of Demons.  Not only has it been a great project overall, but i have to give a shout out to Rob Heinsoo, who is the author of the book (and co-creator of 13th Age), and has a been a pleasure to work with. In addition, he used to work for Chaosium back in Ye Golden Years, so it was cool to talk Chaosium shop with him.

Also meanwhile also, i’m FINALLY resuming work on Feed the Shoggoth! After blabbing here and there last year about starting up development on the first expansion, i carved out some time for myself last week and did some rough art for the cards. The rules are already written (with a lot of help from my friend Damon), so now it’s a matter of making the art semi-visible, and assembling everything in Illustrator. I’ll be running play tests at DunDraCon in February, but i’ll toss in a preview here as well.

Whew! I guess that’s a lot. And i can’t even talk about all the other stuff going on…yet.

Sneaking up on the finish line

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

[EDIT: For some dumb reason, i thought i’d published this post back in November, but i apparently just saved it as a draft instead. Whoops.]

 

Hudson & Brand has proven to be one of my most complex projects to date, with no less than four different editions:

  • The Standard Edition
  • The Spirits Edition (Standard + the Spirits of London extra chapter)
  • The Immortals Edition (Standard + the Immortals extra chapter)
  • The Curator’s Edition (Standard + Spirits + Immortals)

Not to mention the extras spun off as separate PDFs, and a bunch of other stuff. At one point, Stephanie made a chart to help keep track of all of this, it was so unwieldy and confusing at times.

But i’m happy to say that the Standard and Spirits editions are damn near complete, pending approval from Mike at Chaosium. Soon after, the Immortals and Curator’s edition will be wrapped up; all by the end of the year, at latest. Whew.

Which means that Fear’s Sharp Little Needles is next. And i’m already far along with that project. Huzzah.

More Pelgrane-related news

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

*sigh* Falling behind here on the news, as usual.

So, first up, i put together another book for Pelgrane Press last month (my gods, is it June already?), which is a dual scenario book for the Free RPG Day event that’s happening nationwide. The book is called Swords Against Owlbears/Font of Knowledge, and contains a scenario for 13th Age, and one for TimeWatch (you can find out more about the book here).

Well, I guess Cat and the other folks at Pelgrane have been happy with my work, because i’ve been given a brand new assignment, one that is, not to underplay it, pretty frikkin’ damn big. Namely, Fall of Delta Green.

Fall of Delta Green was originally slated as an add-on for the new Delta Green RPG Kickstarter. But now it’s being broken off to it’s own standalone book. 

Kenneth Hite (and others). 175,000 words. Full hardcover book built from the ground up.

Holy shit.

So….yeah, between that and continued work with Stygian Fox, i think i’ll be busy for a little while.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

As the sun mercifully sets on 2016 and rises on 2017, we can talk about a few projects that are coming up from the Studio:

  1. I’ve been hired by Aaron Vanek (he of the famed HPL Film Fest in L.A., writer, game designer, and all around awesome guy) to begin work on a handful of tiny games. The first one is a LARP called Rock Band Murder Mystery. Production on my side is well underway, and i would be surprised if it doesn’t come out by the end of the month.
  2. Preliminary design work has begun on Distant Realms, a new, non-CoC release by Stygian Fox. I’m currently working on the page design, which is really making me stretch my skills (and pushing my use of Illustrator, which i have to admit i kinda despise) to new levels. Once i have something that i can show, i’ll post it here.
  3. A bit further out, i’ll be doing the layout for Hudson & Brand, a Victorian-era sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu.
  4. And lastly, i’m hoping hoping hoping to get a Kickstarter going for the first expansion for Feed the Shoggoth! launched some time during the summer.

Whew!

The Things We Left Behind finished

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

At long last, i can say that The Things We Left Behind is really done. Right now, the interiors are complete, and is getting a once over to check for typos and other issues right now. I’m expecting that, if everything goes okay, it’ll be ready some time next week. I believe the plan is to get the .pdf out to backers first, and then to DriveThruRPG for POD orders.

I’m really rather proud if this book; Stygian Fox really let me stretch myself creatively, and i got to try some things design-wise that i haven’t done before. I believe Stephanie said that it looks “visceral”, which is definitely something i was shooting for when working on the design. I’ll post a couple of pictures here to give you an idea of what the interiors look like.

Meanwhile, i’ve also been working on an art book for my friend Skinner. You may or may not have seen his work; his stuff is gonzo, underground, insane…and completely awesome. I can’t tell you how honored i feel to be working on this project.

Lastly,  i’ve been running Horror on the Orient Express for my gaming group. And, being the handouts/props geek that i am, i’ve been making my own versions of the handouts that are needed for the campaign. As much as i love OE, the production the handouts in the books leave a lot to be desired. Guessing that other people may want to use them, i’ll start posting them here- i might even make a dedicated page for the campaign, if interest is there.

Be seeing you…

It might be starting to pour a bit

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

You know that saying, “when it rains…”? Yeah…after a bit of a dearth of assignments, i’m suddenly starting to get contacted a lot about new projects to work on, which is awesome.

What is decidedly NOT awesome is the fact that we recently moved, and my work station is all in bits and pieces. Which is not good when you have assignments to finish and now others to potentially start on. Oh, and our internet access isn’t up and running yet. I’m hoping to get this all sorted out this week.

Speaking of assignments to finish, The Things We Leave Behind has been in a holding pattern as a) i wait for more maps to come in, and b) we get our move completed. But Stephanie has been putting more map files in my Dropbox lately, so that’s good. Now i just have to take care of part b.

In Feed the Shoggoth! news, we’ve been slowly but surely expanding the number of stores that carry the game (including one in Denmark!), and our online store is up and running: you can check that out at FeedtheShoggoth.com. You know you want a copy.

That’s all for now. Be seeing you!

Weird West Call of Cthulhu Character Booklets

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Last month, i had the pleasure of attending a small horror RPG convention. While i’ve been running Call of Cthulhu for years and years, it’s really only at cons where i actually write original material; in my regular campaign, i almost always run pre-written adventures. So, for this convention, i got a bug in my bonnet about writing a scenario set in the Wild West. Previous adventures that i’ve done have covered modern day, the 1950s, World War II, and of course the 1920s, but i’d never done anything in the Western era. I’d been partially  influenced by my friend Dovi, who ran this utterly amazing scenario early last year.

Naturally, as a huge prop geek, i wanted to do more than just the typical character sheet. I did a search online, of course, and found one that was done by the Mad Irishman for Worlds of Cthulhu #2. It looked great, but it wasn’t quite what i was looking for. I wanted a booklet, something really tangible that my players could sink their teeth into. A friend of mine suggested that i make it in the style of an old playbill. Eureka! That was the inspiration i needed, and off to InDesign i went…

I thought it might be cool to make that booklet available for people to use, if they want to, so i’m offering up some files for free download. Some things of note:

  1. You’ll notice that the pages might look a little out of order. This is done so that you can print the booklet double sided. For example, the page that has “One Night Only” is meant to be the front cover; the Gear and Weapons page would appear on the back. “The Main Cast” would be the inside front cover, and so on.
  2. You’ll want to print these out in landscape mode, on two normal 8.5″ x 11″ pages. I used some special marbled paper from an office supply store to get more of an old timey look.
  3. There are a few skills listed, and Draw! rules, from Worlds of Cthulhu #2. I know it’s out of print, but if you can track that book down, i’d advise it. I think it’s all self-explanatory, though.
  4. I’ve made most applicable fields editable, but please note that it’s my first time doing so, so please let me know if i can improve on the pdf.
  5. The “Ace in the Hole” is a house rule i came up with just for the scenario. Each of the six characters has a secret, heroic ability they can use, mostly just once per game. You can read an example of this in August Black’s character booklet.

I think that’s it. Here’s an example of what the front and back covers look like:

August Black example

 

Here’s the link to the editable pdf: Blank Wild West CoC Char Booklet

And here’s where you can download an example of how the final booklets looked: August Black.pdf

Enjoy!

-=Badger

Clearing the plate

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Well, at least it didn’t take until next year to post an update. Good gods. I’ve been terrible at this lately. And by “lately”, i mean for a long bloody time.

Since last we spoke, De Horrore Cosmico, a collection of Cthulhu Invictus scenarios, has been completed, sent out to Kickstarter backers, and should be on shelves at some point in the future (i would hope!). I’m rather proud of this book, especially since it was the first book i designed a cover for. Credit to Mark Shireman, also of GGP, for helping with some ideas on that. Check the book out; looks like you can get it on Amazon (edit: actually, it’s not available there!), but i would highly suggest purchasing it at your local gaming store instead.

De Horrore Cosmico

At least one fiction book for Montag Press was also completed during that time, and i’m currently working the layout for another one, plus going back and plugging in a bunch of corrections for a previous title, Xtremus.

 

Xtremus

But mostly, i’ve been working on Feed the Shoggoth! stuff. At this point, the game is done and dusted- in fact, it’s on the way here from China as i type this, and should be in my hands the first full week of October. Woot!

Speaking of Feed the Shoggoth!, i’ve learned yet another lesson through this process of self-publishing that i can pass along to you, dear reader. Make sure you’ve got your shipping costs nailed down before you start your Kickstarter. I’m not talking about the shipping fees that your backers will need to pay in order to get their stuff. I’m referring instead to the costs incurred from the printing company when they ship your product to your doorstep (or wherever you’re going to stash your product). I didn’t, and it’s come back to bite me in the ass, to the tune of $2000. Ouch. I have the money to cover it, thankfully, but i’m going to have to eat much of the costs of mailing out all the KS product out. And that’s going to suck.

Lastly, i’ve signed a contract to do the book design for a new company that’s a Chaosium licensee, Stygian Fox Publishing. The Things We Leave Behind will be a collection of six scenarios for Call of Cthulhu, all set in the modern era. It looks to be really good, and i’m excited to be a part of it.

Okay, that’s it for now. Oh, and in case you’re keeping an eye on it, i’ve finally updated my damn portfolio.

The process of developing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

Friday, June 13th, 2014

When I began the process of designing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, I had it in mind from the start that two rules i needed to follow were to be paramount. One, that the book be easy to read; and two, that the book be easy to navigate and quickly find information. There had been a lot of talk in different circles about wanting CoC 7th ed to look like this, or look like that, and as a fan myself, it was easy to fall into the mindset of “Yes, I want to look as amazing as possible! Full color everything! Cool things everywhere!” But one thing (out of many, many things) that Lynn Willis taught me is that form should never supersede function. The primary job of a rulebook is to disseminate information in the quickest and easiest manner possible. Everything else is fluff. And if that fluff gets in the way, then I’m not doing my job right.

So I did a bunch of research. I looked at several iterations of Call of Cthulhu, from the first edition all the way up to 6th. I looked at the Spanish and French editions, as well. Each version had their strengths and weaknesses that I took note of. I then went outside Call of Cthulhu and the horror genre entirely and looked at other rulebooks that had come out in the last few years. The gaming world has advanced a lot since Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, with a ton of new artists and designers introducing new ideas and concepts into how rulebooks should look and function. What had they done right? What had they done wrong? I looked at titles such as Godlike, Pathfinder, Eclipse Phase, Kerberos Club, The One Ring, Hollow Earth Expedition, and others for inspiration and object lessons.

One thing that stood out to me was that, with a book as massive as this, easy navigation through the book was going to be really important. I hit upon the idea early on that I wanted to incorporate some sort of icon system that would give distinctive visual cues to the reader when flipping through the book. In addition, I borrowed an idea from Eclipse Phase in which the two columns of text really standing out from the page:

 

KS article example 1

 

As you can see in the above example, the icon navigation idea really didn’t work. The page is way too busy with icons, symbols in the background, splashes of blood, graphics at the top of the pages…the main text just gets lost, even with the highlighting. You can see also that the font for the headers is an early attempt of a tome-like feel that didn’t quite work.

Some things were kept, however, as we’ll see in a bit.

 

KS article example 2

The main page background has been toned down greatly, and all but one of the icons show up on the page now. I wanted to have notebook pages and scraps of paper used for boxed text and other highlighted sections; you can see one example of this above. Still, too cluttered.

KS article example 3

After some more feedback, things start to change pretty radically. Borders have been placed for most of the boxed text, as well as all the page headers. The main page backgrounds have been toned down even futher, with arcane symbols in the upper corners, and distressed looks in the lower corners. Obviously, the red sidebar text didn’t really work. Header fonts are still very much in flux (i went through so many fonts throughout the evolution of the book, it’s not even funny).

KS article example 4

 

Amazing what one font will do for a book…once i introduced Cristoforo, it all really started coing together. Example boxes have been made. And, for the separate boxed text, you can see how i borrowed from my idea back in the first example of the highlighted box for the main text. Goes to show you that you should always hold on an idea; you never know when it might work for something else! The illuminated letter at the beginning of each chapter, as well, has been kept from the earliest iteration (and, later on in the process, colored for effect).

KS article example 5

And now we see the near-final look and feel of the design. The size of the header font has been dropped significantly (in some places, it was just huuuge), the page background have been darkened just a bit, and it all just looks…cleaner. One side benefit of using the Cristoforo font by Thomas Phinney is that he included some terrific Lovecraftian glyphs, some of which i was able to use for bullet point lists. Example boxes have been refined, and space in general has at once been tighened up, and expanded as need be, to give the text space to breathe.

 

KS article example 6

One last example after further polishing. Old photo borders have been added to the pictures, the “Example” headers in the Example boxes have been taken out (to conserve space), and general tightening up.

So there you go! It’s been a very long evolution, one that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you see here is the result of months of tweaking, refining, getting feedback, doing further tweaking, more feedback…until we reach something that we can all be happy with and proud of. And this is but a taste of the many, many versions of the core book that we went through; these screenshots highlight only a small sample of them.

Thanks for reading!