Kickstarter: Modern, Mythos and Machine Stock Art by JEShields

Disclaimer: James reached out to me directly in advance of his project going live and asked if I would be willing to share my thoughts about it when it went live. He provided the sample artwork used in this piece and a pre-launch preview of the campaign.

If you’re operating on the smaller end of the publishing scale like I am then one of the things you quickly learn is that artwork is expensive (and rightly so given the work that is involved). It’s why I use stock and royalty free artwork as much as possible. Amongst the artists producing stock art specifically for RPGs the one that I have turned to repeatedly is J. E. Shields, thanks to his consistent style and extensive catalogue across a range of genres.

His latest Kickstarter has just launched and is focused on 3 genres where stock art is often limited to come by – modern, the Cthulhu mythos and science fiction. Each genre will receive a mix of art covering full page/cover art, vehicles, half-page scenes, effects, characters and items. While the artwork will initially be black and white line art the stretch goals will cover upgrading the artwork to full colour.

This is very much a project to fill the gaps in the market, driven by discussion with small publishers and one that is definitely needed as just like gaming itself the majority of stock art out there covers D&D flavoured fantasy. The pledge levels start at $30, for which you’ll get access to a selection of the material while higher levels will net you all of the material produced for an individual genre or even all of the art that comes out of the project.

At $30 entry it represents tremendous value as this is typically the minimum you should expect to pay for a single piece of custom art. Backers will be able to submit illustration ideas to the project, while this won’t provide the control that an independent commission would include it does mean that you’ll get at least a couple of pieces that are influenced by your individual needs.

The Kickstarter has a goal of $4,900 and runs until the 23rd June. At the time of writing (on the day of launch) it was already 27% funded. You can also find James’ existing stock art catalogue on drivethruRPG (link includes the LunarShadow affiliate ID). Also, if you’re wondering about the value of the colour stretch goals I think this preview (left) speaks for itself.

2020: Initial Projects

After a rush of activity at the end of 2019 I’ve started the year a little more sedately while I work out what I want to focus on. Right now that has involved a significant amount of jumping between ideas, making a little progress and then moving to the next one. I’ve completed a draft of The Geller Protocol, the first of my Sprawl mission packets (using a minimal one page format) and made headway with Say Aaargh, an expanded version of the very first Demon Hunters adventure I ever ran. Progress on Clean-Up Crew continues to evade me – the Fiasco format is harder to get my head around than I ever imagined but I would really like to get it completed so I can wrap up the Slice of Life material.

In typical fashion it is The Dyson Eclipse where my brain is firing on all cylinders. It probably helps here that I’m still at the ideas stage, so I can just jot down options and possibilities without needing to work them into a cohesive whole. What I’m still missing though is that central conceit.

What is the core focus of the game, what do the characters do.

Until I can get that solidified any real progress is going to be at a glacial pace as I can’t lock in mechanics without that aspect. So for now I’m researching – despite being a massive sci-fi fan my collection of sci-fi RPGs is relatively small. I’ve picked a few core systems to go over, to see how they work through the problem and what options they present for gameplay beyond the typical scoundrels in space.

The final thing I’ve been working on is learning to use Affinity Publisher after buying a new desktop computer for at home. That has been a lot of fun and I’ve been going back to basics as I get to grips with it. So far, so good and I think the fact that I have a much better appreciation of layout concepts than when I first opened up Scribus has been a massive help. I’ve started to put together a series of layout templates for Demon Hunters as once Clean-Up Crew is out I’d like to do a complete revamp of my layout. There isn’t anything explicitly wrong with my existing format but it could definitely be a lot better. The alternate badness table incorporated a number of new elements and going forward I’d like to have a template that would be useable for both PDF and print formats. Yes, that’s right. Print. DrivethruRPG offer print on demand options so I think it is worth exploring. It would be great if some day in the future I could offer material at a convention and this is one of the options that would facilitate that.

After saying that I’d started off sedately putting this together actually makes me realise that I am already making progress on projects even if it isn’t automatically apparent.

#RPGaDay2019 5th August: ‘Space’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 5: Space

I want to write an epic space opera setting using either Cortex Prime or Faith Corps (the Demon Hunters system). It’s only in the early stages but my current thoughts are centred on a single system that was colonised after the discovery of alien megastructures that appear to have been built specifically for humanity. I’m still trying to work out overarching details of the setting before I even think about the themes I want to explore but my current aesthetics are 70s/80s novel covers and various animated sci-fi shows. When coming up with scenarios I often start with a big picture mental image from a single scene. Whether it’s the setup to a fight, with an aging dragon prowling around the PCs or a setting overview, in this case a dysons array of synchronised orbital platforms with enormous solar collectors.

The trick will be going from that picture and building up the questions and details into a framework for a game. There needs to be a clear ‘this is what you do / what this game is about’ that I can then use to refocus the mechanics. I think part of the reason so many space games have failed is that they have made the assumption that ‘fly around, shenanagins happen’ is enough. If you look at the majority of space opera novels they tend to have this established, deep setting but the drive of the stories comes from an external change that pushes the characters forward. That’s what I want when I get around to writing my own setting, something people can pick up and say ‘I know what the author wants me to do here.’

Kickstarter: Choose your own Sci-Fi stock art by JEShields

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).

Space That Never Was: The Art of Maciej Rebisz

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

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All artwork is copyright Maciej Rebisz, I’ve posted it just to showcase it and will happily take it down if requested.

 

 

QuicFic: Collapse

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I awoke to the taste of my own blood. Caught unaware and half out of my impact webbing the blast had thrown me awkwardly from my chair, my head ricocheting against the console to my left. Ship time indicated I had blacked out for only a handful of seconds, the pain made it feel like days. Sensory warnings already flickered at the edge of my vision, my arm was broken in multiple places and neural overrides had settled into place to prevent the onset of debilitating pain. I didn’t need my implants to know that my lip was split open, the taste of blood in my mouth ensured I was aware of that. The radiation exposure warning that demanded my attention explained the burning heat emanating from the side of my face, a worry given I was acutely aware of what was required to penetrate the considerable shielding that lined the hull of the Guardian class IGS Aari.

My crew, barely a segment into their first tour, were struggling to function, unsure of their priorities in light of the sudden battering we had taken. “Stat Op! Tactical, sound off,” my command cut through the bridge alerts on a priority channel, feeding directly into the ears of the crew. “Shields stabilising, laser batteries alpha through delta online. All squadrons initiating immediate combat launches.” Lieutenant Narra’s report summarised what my own screens had already confirmed but her verbalization of our readiness lifted a noticeable weight from the rest of the crew. I turned to my right, where Ensign Issa was cocooned within the navigation pod. “Helm, sensory replay.”

There was a slight delay in her response, no more than a second but enough to betray distraction. I knew from the initial medical reports that her clone twin in engineering had received a serious injury, likely bad enough to disrupt the neural link between them. The potential feedback from unexpectedly severing connections had, on occasion, been reported to render the active twin catatonic, so the quiet “Aye Captain” as she fully engaged the pod came as a relief. “Logs report the appearance of a gravitational sinkhole, duration 135 milliseconds, local increase approximately 15 thousand times Earth standard. Triangulation places likely origin point at 2.9 million kilometers ahead with an exponential strength increase at the epicentre.”

The Ensign didn’t need to add that directly ahead lay the lifeless planet of IK3576-D, host of staging post three and home of the 3rd, 5th and 11th fleets. Of far greater concern was the shockwave that had hit us, only gravitational collapse munitions, crushers in naval slang, produced such an effect. I knew instinctively that the scale of the sinkhole meant the unremarkable planet, and the crews stationed in orbit, were gone. Their mass compressed in a near instant, held together by an artificial gravity field just long enough for nuclear fusion to occur. Tens of thousands of lives extinguished by a single warhead, an entire planet gone. The devastation was why gravitational weapons were banned across known space, no spacefaring civilisation was willing to risk their complete and utter annihilation in such a manner.

My shock was interrupted, if only briefly, by Lieutenant Sar. His voice, normally so full of warmth and energy, was quiet, flat. Scared. “Captain, telemetry coming in from the jump gate. The relays… The relays are reporting total communication failure with staging posts four through seven. They’re just gone…” His report hung in the air, silence descending over the bridge. With a single strike action the rebels had taken out almost a third of the loyalist forces, hundreds of thousands of souls dispatched to the judgement halls of their ancestors. The war for control of the Gerandas Empire had begun.

It was also, I was sure, already lost.

Sci-fi Shorts

While fan made movies and short series have existed as long as people have had the ability to shoot them the combination of high speed internet and readily available special effects packages have allowed amateurs to create and share content in ways that have never before been possible. The sci-fi genre is one of the best examples of this, with some of the best fan made productions showcasing special effects that would have required dedicated production studios only 10 years ago. Every so often I get around to catching up with interesting or intriguing pieces, a few of which I wanted to share here.

First up we have the fan made human Revolution – Deus Ex based on the most recent Deus Ex game featuring the unwilling cybernetically enhanced Adam Jenson:

Next is The Gable 5 featuring Eliza Dushku (of Buffy and Dollhouse fame amongst others) focusing on the ordeals a woman is put through as a subject in a secret neurological experiment. While a standalone short there’s the potential that the episode could be followed up with a webseries exploring the experiment in greater detail:

 

Finally we have Prospect, a short film following a girl and her father as they explore an alien jungle. I’ve linked to the Verge article for this one as in addition to embedding the film itself the article provides an interesting insight into the development of the film and the choices that were made during its production.