If you’ve been following my Demon Hunters or Project Cassandra posts then one thing you might have noticed is a consistent art style for the characters. That’s because the vast majority of the artwork I’ve used to date has come from a single source, James Shields (JEShields). He primarily releases his work on Patreon and drivethruRPG but every so often runs a Kickstarter for larger projects.
His latest is focused on Sci-fi stock art, what makes it unique though is that the final images will be released as a series of mix and match components. Want an alien cantina but with a giant arachnid in place of the bounty hunter? Switch them out and create the new scene. The possible number of combinations is massive, especially if you go all in and pick up each of the five packs (weapons, ships, portraits, characters and scenes) on offer.
If the art itself wasn’t enough then how about bonus backer rewards of games and supplements donated by a range of indie publishers? I won’t go over the full list but suffice to say they really boost the value of the Kickstarter.
The Kickstarter can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeshields/choose-your-own-sci-fi-stock-art and runs until the early morning of the 15th June (UK time).
I’m a sucker for inspirational artwork, so much so I did an entire series of posts showcasing images that had jumped out at me and provided immediate ideas for characters or campaigns. Throughout my life science fiction has always been the one genre that has consistently drawn me in so this article on The Verge instantly caught my attention. It highlights the artwork of Maciej Rebisz from Poland, a concept artist with a particular focus on space and the exploration of the solar system. It’s a stunning alternative history in images, building on the visual concepts of the Apollo program and using them as a base to say “what if we had pushed that little bit further…”
You can find more of his art at: http://spacethatneverwas.tumblr.com/ and https://www.artstation.com/mac
All artwork is copyright Maciej Rebisz, I’ve posted it just to showcase it and will happily take it down if requested.
With Project Cassandra edging ever closer to completion I’ve been given some thoughts as to what I want to work on. The length of the list was rather surprising, I didn’t realise I had accumulated notes for so many ideas already.
Niska’s Race – A Firefly Adventure. Having run this at multiple conventions it’s about time that I wrote this up and put it online for others. I’ve got a partial draft of the adventure, what it really needs is some focus on the structuring and what information needs to be presented for others to run it.
Demon Hunters Adventures – Again adventures I’ve run in the past that I’d like to get out for others and again I’ve already got a partial draft to work from. For these I’d love to be able to get them released on drivethruRPG as some sort of semi-official / recognised adventure for the system. First step though is writing then I can worry about layout / publishing.
Neon Blades, cyberpunk reality TV – Aim is a lightweight system with a focus on the idea of looking good over all else, hence the idea of some sort of reality TV show focused on a team of operatives. I’ve got the initial outlines of a system but it’s lacking any details, so in keeping with the theme of style over substance for now.
The Fallen Mountains – I’d still like to flesh out my Legend of the Five Rings setting to the point of it being a resource for a future game. Likely to be a slow ongoing process as I detail characters, events and locations.
The Delve, Leverage / Cortex+ hack – The idea for this actually came from a series of images I got through JEShields stock art patreon. The idea is of a group of fantasy dwarves trying to break into a wizards vault. Thinking more along the lines of D&D style fantasy than Tolkien with magic being relatively common. At the moment just an idea, first step will be to go over the original game again and see how much can just be used as is.
Cortex+ hack based around the adventures of soft toys – Another vague idea for the moment, could probably be achieved with just some custom distinctions and renaming of a few elements. Originally inspired by a DoubleClicks song called Lullaby for Mr Bear.
Powers, PbtA followup to Project Cassandra. Again a vague idea for a thematic follow-up to Project Cassandra using a hack of the Apocalypse system dealing more with the consequences of gaining powers in a world dominated by global conspiracies. Will hopefully incorporate some ideas from an old Cortex game where powers regularly went out of control with devastating and tragic consequences.
Today I received a preview of the nearly finished first piece of character art I’ve commissioned for the game. To say it’s great is a massive understatement. Getting to finally meet the character is always a special moment, it makes them real in a way that a simple character sheet can’t and I can’t wait to see how the rest stand out.
My aim with the game is to have 8-10 images for the game, using a mix of commissioned pieces and stock art, all by the same artist. Should I ever move onto a second game I’ll look into using a wider range of stock art. While I’ll always aim to produce as professional a product as possible I’m very much aware that I’ll never make much (if any) money from them. Like many people though that’s not why I do it, this is and always will be a hobby to me.
Now I realise that this post teases some artwork but I’m going to hold off on posting the preview as I want to present the final image in context with the finalised character sheet. Hopefully that won’t be too far off.
One of the areas of Project Cassandra I’ve always been unhappy with is the layout and presentation of the game. While I’ve always liked the typewriter style font I’ve been using the document as a whole has always looked like something thrown together in word, for the obvious reason that it was. Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly learning how to use Scribus, a desktop publishing program that is available for free. I made the mistake of assuming it would be similar enough to word and dove right into it, trying the layout the entire game all at once. Suffice to say that didn’t really work so my focus of the last few days has been on laying out the character sheets, the initial result of which you can see below.
The new sheet, on the right, is a vast improvement on the old one. It makes much better use of the space, with the individual sections more clearly defined than before. Most of all it feels (to me) like it is closer to something you’d find in a published RPG. There are, obviously, still aspects that need work with spacing being the main one. That’s something I’ll properly address once I have the character art in place, as I want be sure of the final dimensions of those images.
Speaking of art…
Something that drastically improved the look of the character sheet was the inclusion of some proper artwork. The piece included in the new sheet is stock art created by JEShields (who also has an RPG art Patreon here) and can be purchased from on drivethruRPG. Eventually this will be moved to within the main rules and replaced with artwork commissioned specifically for Project Cassandra, again drawn by JEShields. The first piece, of intrepid reporter Samantha Dawes, is already underway with the rest to follow once funds allow.
Sometimes I just come across a set of work that jumps out at me as inspiration for a game or a campaign (and gave rise to the inspirational artwork series). The surreal gifs created by artist Kevin Weir are a prime example of this. Working primarily from archival Library of Congress photos he’s turned them into something otherworldly by animating them, often just in subtle ways. Perhaps my favourite of them is the one below just because ideas immediately jump out at me for a War of the Worlds or post World War 1 (or 2) game battling Cthulhu-esk eldritch horrors beyond mortal comprehension.
You can find more of his work on his tumblr, Flux Machine
Cheating slightly with post number 2 in this series as I’m using the same image again but that the great thing about this sort of approach to campaign design, the same piece can provide many different sources of inspiration.
Source: Marek Okon who drew this as the cover of a comic series called Shrapnel, published by Radical Comics.
Genre: Military science fiction, lovecraftian horror
Themes: Survival, horror, aliens
Campaign elevator pitch: Returning from deployment on a far off world a group of marines, weary and hardened by war, awake from cryosleep docked at a remote station decades later than scheduled. The garrison, however, has been barricaded from the inside and the unit must work their way inside in order to resupply and discover what has occurred. Inside the garrison a sleeping evil awakes… and the marines learn of horrors no war could prepare them for.
The players would: be a detachment of marines trying to get home
The campaign would build towards: Escaping the horror that lurks within, only to discover that during their sleep Earth has already fallen victim to otherworldly horrors.
Game system: The Void Core