Archive for the ‘Book Design’ Category

FSLN, an ENnie nomination, and more on The Dare

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

A whole bunch of stuff to get to, so let’s not waste any more time babbling on or apologizing for yet another post that took forever to get out, shall we?

First up, good news on the latest book project we’ve been working on. Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, a vast collection of small, modern day scenarios for Call of Cthulhu by Stygian Fox, has finally been sent to the printer for approval (the .pdf has already been released to Kickstarter backers. I won’t go into details, but goddammit, it was another last minute struggle to get the files to play nice with the printer. Adding to the delay were a few rounds of editorial corrections and typos that needed to be fixed (I think at one point I had a list printed out that was 27 pages long). At any rate, I’m hoping we’ll get the proofs back soon and be able to approve them, and get the physical book into people’s hands.

Second, we found out that Hudson & Brand has been nominated for an ENnie award! H&B is up for Best Electronic Book (why, you ask, when it’s out in physical form? Apparently there was some misunderstanding between SF and the GenCon committee), and a bunch of other Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green products have been nominated for a number of awards as well. It’s pretty amazing that both games are dominating the awards field this year, and it’s a testament to the outstanding quality from both companies.

Meanwhile, work slowly continues (when I have the time) on the artwork for the new Feed the Shoggoth! expansion. I want to get the final pieces at least 75% done before I go live with the Kickstarter, as I refuse to have a huge lag time between the KS completing and actually going to the printer with the expansion. I’ll post another piece of art here soon.

 


 

The Dare Development Journal Entry #2:

A couple of weeks ago, Bret at Sentinel Hill Press posted an update regarding the design of The Dare. All around, feedback on it has been positive; Kevin Ross has also given it his stamp of approval, and is digging the retro look. Here’s the example that was posted on The Dare’s Kickstarter page:

One challenge with The Dare so far has been attempting to accurately nail down which fonts are going to best emulate those that were used during the period of Chaosium’s “Golden Age”. If I remember what Charlie Krank told me, back when I was freelancing for him and visiting the Chaosium offices, they were probably using something like PageMaker. Or possibly doing all the typesetting and such by hand, using some early variant of HTML-type tagging. Whatever the case may be, there’s no concrete reference files that I can use, so I’m basically eyeballing everything and winging it, keeping in mind the relative lack of fonts back then (which means no Papyrus then…*snif*). For example, with that boxed text on the right page, it took a bit of trial and error to figure out the fonts for the header and main text (which ended up being Helvetica).

After the above sample was posted on the Kickstarter, someone (specifically Jon from the Misk. U Podcast) made the observation that the page decoration on the outer edges of the pages were too dark, and thus distracting to the eyes. So, when I went back and finished the basic layout of the text, I tweaked the levels a bit on them to lighten them a bit. In addition, I started placing a few pieces of art that I have:

As you can see, the lightening of the page decoration helps, but I might wash them out a little more. And something else that I didn’t notice until I processed this latest example is that the page numbers are way, way too close to the bottom edge of the pages. Not to mention that there isn’t enough space between the numbers and the columns of text. This is even more problematic on page “13”, where that image is bumping right up against the number. This required me to both move the numbers up on the master pages, but also adjust the lengths of the columns as well. A minor fix as far as time went, but an important one.

Right now, I’m awaiting the rest of the art to come in, as well as the maps. I’m hoping to have the of those elements soon.

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!

 

We won an ENnie!

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

The 50th annual GenCon rolled around this past week, and Stygian Fox had been nominated for two awards: Best Adventure, and Best Electronic Book. We found out Friday that The Things We Leave Behind won for Best Electronic Book! I’m so proud of this award, on so many levels; Stephanie busted her ass to get this project off the ground, wrangled all the amazing authors and artists together, and worked long hours to get it out. Oh, and not to mention the maps. The writers were amazing, some of the best i’ve ever worked with. And Stephanie basically gave me free reign to design the book how i wanted to. For our very first book to nab two nominations, and a gold ENnie…that’s pretty damn amazing. Between this and the 2012 gold for Cthulhu by Gaslight, i feel confident in calling myself “award-winning graphic designer” :

 

So, then. With the afterglow of that award, i’d like to give two updates:

NecronomiCon: The largest HP Lovecraft convention in the world took place this last weekend, and it was a blast. This marks our third time in attendance, and again, it didn’t disappoint. We sold out of all of our copies of Feed the Shoggoth! (a big, big thanks to Arkham Bazaar in that regard), the two sessions of the game went great (with two simultaneous games springing up!), a good amount of networking, and seeing friends new and old made it once again a stellar convention. I already can’t wait until 2019.

Books: We’ve decided to move Hudson & Brand to the top of the design queue, so i’ve been working on that project pretty much exclusively at the moment. Plans are that, once H&B is completed, i’ll move back to working on Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, which is already well on its way. After that, i believe Distant Realms will be next (again, with a good amount of work already having been done on it).

Besides all that, i still have plans to do an expansion or two for Feed the Shoggoth!, and 2018 sounds like it’s going to be a huge year for Stygian Fox. The Fall of Delta Green book has been on hold temporarily, awaiting approval on various things from Arc Dream. Once i know about that particular project, i’ll definitely post an update on that.

Be seeing you,

-=Badger

New Pelgrane PDF out now

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Remember that small project i mentioned that i’d be doing for Pelgrane Press? Well, Looking Glass: Hong Kong is out now. It’s a wee supplement for Night’s Black Agents, Pelgrane’s RPG about spies, vampires, fighting vampires and spies, and probably spying on vampires. Or Vampiring on spies. It’s by Ken Hite. You should get it.

And apparently Pelgrane liked what i did, because i’ve been tapped to work on something a bit larger for them; namely, a special project for the upcoming Free RPG Day event next month.

Also, i just got asked to work on a certain kind of secret thing for NecronomiCon that i’m not sure i can mention just yet…

Oh yeah, and i *finally* updated my portfolio to represent the last few projects i’ve completed. I’d almost forgotten about some of those novels for Montag Press…

The Things We Leave Behind now available!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

At long last, the first publication from Stygian Fox, The Things We Leave Behind, is available for purchase. Currently you can get it on DriveThruRPG as a .pdf here; in a couple of weeks time, you’ll also be able to buy it via print on demand. Once i have the info for that, i’ll post it here.

This is the official blurb:

The Things We Leave Behind is an anthology of 6 modern day scenarios for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game published by Chaosium, Inc, edited by Jeff Moeller, and written by Brian M. Sammons, Scott Dorward, Simon Brake, Oscar Rios, and Jeff Moeller with art by Davide Como, Badger McInnes, Dean Engelhardt, and Stephanie McAlea.

Taking its inspirational cues from Delta GreenFargoBlood Simple, and True Detective, the book takes a mature look at the horror of human nature and its ability to be just as disturbing as anything from the Mythos.

The scenarios deal with unavoidable fates, dark secrets, and seriously bad choices made by the antagonists. As so often is the case, there are no winners when fate has trapped you in a dice game for doom or destiny. As such, please be aware that some of the themes are quite mature and are suitable for adult gamers only.
In other news, we’ll be at the SF ComicCon Friday and Saturday, running demos of Feed the Shoggoth! to unsuspecting patrons. Games of Berkeley is running the gaming section of the con, and have graciously invited Squamous Studios to show off FtS! there.
We’ll be at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, in Sierra J (wherever that is), Friday and Saturday from noon to 4pm. Please stop by! More info on the con can be found here.

Shipping Shoggoths

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

It’s official- the shipment of Feed the Shoggoth! copies arrived from China, and were delivered right to my door (of my storage unit). Over half a ton of game product is quite the site to behold…

…and makes me glad i’m not in the book business. I can’t imagine what schlepping around 1,500 copies of an RPG would be like instead…no, wait! I do know what’s that like, having done so when i used to work the booth for Chaosium at conventions. Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, the inside of my apartment now looks like a tornado hit a warehouse, with piles of boxes ready to be shipped, and other product scattered about, lurking behind shipping and packing material. It’s a glorious mess. This is what i’ll be doing for the next…i dunno how long. Packing and stuffing and taping and labeling. But the end result’s already worth it.

Meanwhile, i submitted my first page design tests to Stygian Fox for that book i’m working on, “The Things We Leave Behind”. It’s a lot…rougher than my previous work. On purpose. This is a collection of modern, deadly, no-holds-barred dark collection of scenarios for Call of Cthulhu. I aim to make this book look mean. A couple of adjustments aside, they’re really happy with what i’ve come up with, which is a great feeling. I’m really looking forward to really diving into this book.

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.

I’m not dead!

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Honest! I’ve just been…ummm, off doing stuff. Seriously.

As usual, i don’t mean to let my blog here slide, but when you have only so many hours in a day, you have to prioritize. It’s like editing, sometimes; you have to let slide bits and chunks of stuff that you know (or think, at least) that would be really cool, but just can’t fit for whatever reason. But i’m back! I swear!

What have i been working on? if your first guess was “Feed the Shoggoth!“, you’d be right. I won’t go into the long, boring details of it, but i spent most of the winter struggling with printer companies. One in particular that, even though they were highly recommended to me, ended up having the worst fucking customer service i’ve yet to experience in this process. You would think that when you’re telling a company that you literally want to give them your money, but they’re not letting you, they’d say something… This cost me precious time, and further delayed the game coming out.

Oh hell. You know what? I’ll out them. They’re called DeLano. I had gotten a quote from them about a year ago, and thought everything was fine. When i requested an updated quote…crickets. Several emails and calls went unanswered. Eventually, some emails were responded to…vaguely, as if they weren’t really paying attention to what i was writing.

Thankfully, i’ve solved that issue; we’re going with Panda Game Manufacturing now, and the difference is night and bloody day. The status of Feed the Shoggoth!, then, is this- pretty much everything concerning goodies for the Kickstarter have been created, paid for, and shipped to me. All i’m waiting for now are the minis and boxes. As far as the game itself, we were delayed (again!), when the pre-press fellow at Panda pointed out that our bleed amount wasn’t enough.

But, as of last night, i finished processing all the cards, after Damion went back in with Illustrator and did some tweaking. I need to do some last tweaking of the rules, and Damion is in the final steps to getting the box design finished. Then we’ll be off to get this all printed!

Of course, we won’t be done after that; there’s still the Print ‘n Play version to put together. But that should be easy (he says, well knowing he’s said that phrase before only to be kicked in the arse by it later).

Meanwhile, i’ve been working on some other projects. You probably know that Call of Cthulhu 7th edition is out now, at least in pdf form. I’ve been told that the dead tree version will be out…this month? May? Anyway, the new year has seen me working on the 7th ed revision of Cthulhu by Gaslight, which is about 90% done.  I’ve also been actively working on the newest book for Golden Goblin Press, De Horrore Cosmico. That particular book is a collection of six, standalone scenarios for the Cthulhu Invictus era. I’m currently done with the big pass on that, and am waiting for the proofreading feedback to get back to me. It’s been a challenge to not duplicate the work i did on The Legacy of Arrius Lurco.

What else…a couple of books for Montag Press that are in the can, and i really need to update my portfolio here….sheesh.

Okay, back to work with me!

The mother of all tables (and other musings)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

I meant to post about this a while ago, but i kept on forgetting…

In a couple of spots in 7th edition, there exist some rather…large tables. One particularly massive table has to do with listing every single Mythos tome ever written about in any Mythos story. We’re talking well over a hundred entries.

Up to this point, i’d been doing all the tables by hand, but after starting in on the tome table, i was quickly realizing that i was losing Sanity points in big chunks. Surely there’s got to be a solution for this…

Lo and behold, InDesign has a function available, called Convert Text to Table, which can be found in the Table menu. I won’t bore you with too many details about it, but one important element i learned (the hard way, as usual) when using this tool is how tell it when to create a new cell. There are a few methods, but the simplest is by a tab. Basically, it works like this:

(glob of text)  [tab]  (another glob of text)

Select the text and apply Convert Text to Table

(glob of text in Cell 1)    (another glob of text in Cell 2)

It’s an awesome, time-saving feature, but you have to be careful that you have all your tabs cleaned up before you run the conversion; otherwise, entire rows in the table can be thrown off. If there are two tabs between your words instead of one, you’ll end up with an unwanted, blank cell.

In other news, i’ve sent off a completed chapter of 7th edition to Mike Mason; it’s been approved, and will hopefully be put on the KS page soon. And, of course, i’ll put up samples of it here as well. I’ve also mocked up some final card designs for Feed the Shoggoth; i brought those with me to a local con recently, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Once those are prepped, i’ll post those here as well.

2013 in review, and a look ahead…

Friday, January 17th, 2014

I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, 2013 doesn’t /feel/ like it was a busy year, but upon reflection, it was probably the most crazy year yet for us Squamous folk.

  1. Publication-wise, most of the stuff that Squamous helped shepherd to print were Miskatonic River Press books: Tales of the Sleepless City, Grimscribe’s Puppets, and Deepest Darkest Eden. Sadly, this would be the year that MRP decided to go on indefinite hiatus (though i know that they’re still working with Chronicle City to get Punktown out in the near future.
  2. Oscar Rios’ new company, Golden Goblin Press, started and completed their first Kickstarter, and we managed to get our first release, Island of Ignorance, out to backers in the timeframe that was announced. That was one hell of a project to work on!
  3. I joined Montag Press, and designed the first book for them, M Against M.
  4. Work began (and continued) on Call of Cthulhu 7th edition; by far, my biggest project to date.
  5. Continued work on my Feed the Shoggoth card game, with toiling away at the artwork top priority for that.
  6. A second book for Montag Press, Punish the Wicked, is in the works.

So what’s up next? Oh, nothing much, really…

  1. Call of Cthulhu 7th edition core rulebook and the Investigator’s Companion are released to the public in late spring. And if they don’t, you’ll probably never hear from me again, as a horde of CoC fans will have stormed my house and flayed me alive.
  2. Punish the Wicked will be out on the shelves.
  3. I plan on launching the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth in mid-March. Watch this space for further developments!
  4. Golden Goblin Press’ next Kickstarter is about get underway for Tales from the Crescent City. Assuming that the KS is successful, i’ll be doing the book design for that as well.
  5. I’ve got a project for Cthulhu by Gaslight that i’ve had on the back burner for months that i’m just itching to get out. By hell or high water…

And who knows what else the year will bring? I’d really like to thank everyone who’s been following along here, and those of you who have been posting comments. They’re very welcome, and i’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Cheers!