Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Train Schedule

Part of me would rather not use letters; I'll work on that and try not to make them impossible to solve.

Cocktail Napkin

Aw man, check out that trampersand. See you in the New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Receipt (brunch)

A puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters; for instance, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by the letter X.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from French rébus, from Latin rebus, ablative plural of res, 'thing.'

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Life is Lies: Creative Lisence

Man, I always spell license wrong. Someone was like, "hey that's funny you spelled it wrong," and that's when I realized I'd done it again. And why do people always think you're taking creative lisence when you make that very mistake?

Of course the cardinal rule of making mistakes is always to say you did it on purpose. It's just that even the file name is spelled correctly (not that you can see that, but I know), why didn't I remember to double-check that post? It's like unnecessary – those two, I always have to double check my spelling. Always.

In Spanish it's the same thing. My gender agreement is always off for some word... problema, that's the one I had pointed out to me the other day. I always say la mapa, too. Always. If you and I are having a conversation some time and I don't say "la mapa," then you can be sure I thought about it ahead of time.

Or, what is more likely, we're speaking in English.

Monday, November 8, 2010


This is one of my oldest games. I can't tell you how many drafts it's gone through – a bunch, let's say. I was waiting for feedback on Mission to Mount Place, so dug up the old book for God-Kings I'd abandoned a couple years ago and finished it. I had a really good testing session last night, so I'm updating the board components now.

The old board. I'm recycling some of these components now, cause I don't want to bake and decorate plasticine chips again.

Tea and Theology, underway.

This game has everything I want in a game – ethics, freedom of choice, complete integration of mechanics and narrative. No wizards, I guess. Or cannibals. I used to want cannibals in every game. I once put cannibals in a game I dedicated to my mother – players compete to acquire an exclusive mining contract to an asteroid in outer space. I think when I remake that game I'll include global warming (it was already a scrutinization of strip-mining and agribusiness practice).

God-Kings is a war game, except game play changes according to the season you're in – ie., you have to feed your followers, or they starve in Winter. That's where the cannibalism would come in, if it were part of this game.

Yes, so, this thing. It's a new component, to replace the obsolete ones from previous versions. You put a little moon on it and it tells you what season you're in, to make sure no one's confused about that.

I used to make up fancy mnemonic artifacts like this instead of writing rule books, but that method makes transmission slow and revision difficult. You have to personally adjudicate every session, which is terrible for several reasons when you're testing a game; and you have to craft everything over again when you realize your rules are ridiculous.

That's why the Priest tokens in this version have little omegas. They used to be Knights. No one ever really understood that the omegas were horseshoes, so it should be a easy transition.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life is Lies: Cuates

In this one, the aliens don't speak any English at all. I couldn't exactly tell you why I insist on making it illegible; I mean, I could, but it's an overarching ideological thing that's somewhat apart from the comic. Ask me after the show —

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I was trying to make a game a while back. I really got into dominoes, and Scrabble – tile-laying games – so I wanted to try and do something that operated on some sort of related principle.

I think the premise was that everyone is a wizard looking for a door into a parallel dimension, or something. I clearly get derailed at "wizard" every time, but what can you do. Plus, really, how can you improve on dominoes? I am a crack hand at dominoes – don't want to fight me, bro; I'm fast as lightning bro; you better use your Nikes, bro.

So, but – I stamped out all the cards, and they sat around for a while. I figured I might as well repurpose them. Now I have a whole bunch of business cards that people especially like getting on Halloween, but generally find Hot Topical.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baby Box

I'm never really satisfied with the way I title things. Essays, comics, whatever. Except Mission to Mount Place, that's the best title ever. Except it's not the actual title. Anyway, I'm working on a new comic, and I think I'm going to call it Baby Box. For better or worse, obviously.

It's about an ogre.

He's friends with a bird man. The bird man is sort of like a tengu.

He's also friends with a tiny troll that turns into a cat. This is based on some folktales. They are the best.

I don't know when this is going to happen, but you'll be the first to know, obviously.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kromdor, Being of Evil

In college I did art for a humor magazine, contributing incidentals for amidst articles. At a later point they picked up a comic strip I was doing:

Kromdor, Being of Evil

Aside from his vague resemblance to a Klan member, he wasn't all that evil. Stealing lollipops, giving homeless people Canadian change. Sometimes I still sketch him; above you see an excellent recent opportunity to test purple markers. But, I was going through an old folder and I realized I had a couple of these that I never submitted to the magazine.

Sometimes the strip is convoluted and bizarre. Sometimes it's really, really simple. Usually it's about spelling mistakes.† His evil minions are a green onion and a porcupine (now ghost porcupine – he died very early on). Below is the run where the porcupine's ghost appears.

That is some serious stuff. I'm pretty sure I drew them while I was a substitute teacher at a boarding school in Vermont, because they're on the back of a worksheet for like, Oliver Cromwell. It wasn't really Cromwell, or the Commonwealth, but yeah, something like that.


†This led to another, unattempted strip – Metaphot, Devourer of Words – based on typos. Actually, I have a lot of excellent emails that would serve the idea well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life is Lies: IDs

This was a fun one. Now it's up!

Recently I dug out some sketches I'd done and defaced them in the name of Science. Stuff like a Tabasco bottle, a cyclops I guess, or a robot, whatever you draw when you're sitting around in a bar. Mostly these guys, though. I get tired of coloring things in digitally, right, and I like limited palettes; so, let's go, markers –

This was the original idea for London, and I'm glad I didn't go with it.

That said, it did lead to a different, excellent idea.

This one just isn't right for those aliens, but at least I finally drew his pint glass proportionally large. Right, I mean – they're three feet tall, and they're always holding regular-sized glasses. I figure they get little shot glasses of beer. Or no one serves them. Or

(that last bit makes sense if you read this week's comic).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holy Grail, Batman

I made this wheel to accompany the game after I wrote last week's post, and proceeded to cannonball through to actually writing the rulebook. It's more of a manual – seventeen pages. I finished the second draft last night, and now that I've scanned this wheel (the Wheel of Fortune; a decidedly unfortunate coincidence), I can slip it into the .pdf for that sort-of polished look. Man, the stand-in wheel image...

... is actually kind of awesome, come to think of it. Check out this sketch page:

Man, then there's this tanuki over there, and my super out-of-practice hiragana – which is from last year, I've been reviewing a lot recently. Oh guh, look at my silly math, too. I wish I still knew how to do synthetic division.

Below is the actual wheel. Someone asked me if it's supposed to spin, but the game uses dice. You keep this alongside the game to refer to for when you roll little foot-jabbing tetrahedrons. Then you meet a... Mushroom, or whatever.

I'm really excited to have written up these rules. I had a bunch of other things I meant to post, and an exam to study for, but I spent the better part of last week working on the game. This morning I had a bout of insomnia, so I painted the playing pieces. The yellows may be dry enough to finish, I should go do them and fall asleep.

Now that I look at the rules again, I kind of do want to call it Mission to Mount Place. Not for now though – that'd require redrawing the playing tiles, and I'm not signing those papers til I see some testing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quest for the Something -or- Mission to Mount Place

I may have mentioned this before, I may have not: I make board games. When I began doing this exactly varies by your reckoning. The earliest demonstrable example is Pit Fighter, ca. 1996, which, although a card-based dueling game, was unrelated to its better-known contemporary, Magic: The Gathering. One of the major drawbacks of Pit Fighter is that it didn't have any rules, but I liked making the cards.†

Later in life I convinced my high school English teacher that the best way to supplement a paper on the origin of ethics and morality was through a board game. I was raised by economists, so I guess it makes sense that I put a lot of value in behavioral models. Still, that doesn't explain why the board is two-and-a-half by four feet – perhaps my penchant for theater? The game plays like The Game of Life, except you are cave people with different moral imperatives. The cannibals always won. My most popular game to date.

"What Life needs is cannibals" – "Risk would be better with wizards" – Thoughts like these more or less drive my will to improve the games of our lives. The latter, for the most part. I don't just add rules, though: I remake the whole thing, top to bottom. This process is eternal. Every year I roll out a few of my games, make sure the pieces are all there, and see if the rules could be improved. Lately it's been the game where everybody's an archaeologist trying to get tenure,†† and the game that ends in four or five different ways.

That brings me to the game I'm working on today. It's part of a project where I give the players lots of conflicting alternatives for ending the game (hence, The Game That Ends in Four or Five Different Ways). The idea partly comes from Carcassonne: The Discovery. I'm a die-hard fan of the Carcassonne series. It's one of the best ever. Read all about it. Still, every time I play The Discovery, I really want to be a wizard – gather mandrake roots in the mountains, meddle with politics in all the little cities with my little Meeple Minions, that sort of thing. I'd say it's coming along well.

You explore tiles like these – through forest, tundra, and mountain – searching for magic artifacts, meeting mysterious allies, and probably making an enemy of some political faction or other. The next image is an example of how you might place the tiles:

It may look a little like Carcassonne: The Discovery, but the resemblance is superficial. There are a couple packs of cards for allies, events, items, that sort of thing. Maybe there's a plague, or a festival, or you meet a caravan; whatever. You also make die rolls to determine whether you discover anything – herbs, hidden places, monsters. I'm poking through the rules to make sure they're balanced, and to see if they're better off being toned down.

See, right – sometimes you're exploring in a swamp or something, and you find hidden places. The skulls are in case a city gets destroyed and we need to indicate that. Razed cities can have a major impact on the end of the game, I'm sure you can imagine. There are also little cork-tokens like these with colors on them, in case the cities change factions (way better than destroying them, right?), but I didn't think you wanted to see corky little circles of color.

At the beginning of the game you roll some dice to determine what sort of person you are – how tough, how smart, etc. – based on some mumbo-jumbo. This wheel articulates that mumbo-jumbo via seasons, phases of the moon, and caste within society. I like my games to resemble old NES games, where the manual has tons of back-story, but you won't be completely clueless if you don't read it.

Although I see nothing in the current rules that addresses this thing, I think it lets you store a spell to use it later – really, your guess is as good as mine.

But, it is awesome.


†Yes, I enjoyed laminating. Man, did I laminate a lot of cards. Two editions of cards, with different backings. Without rules. And now that I think about it, this continues to be the pattern of my game-making to the present day.

††My second-most popular game. Now in its third draft, "The Archaeologist Game" is in fact the progenitor of "The Game That Ends in Four-to-Five Different Ways," but they diverged last year in the interest of wizards.


Also, If you're interested in testing this and other games with me, please get in touch and we'll see if that's geographically and chronologically possible. Just click the alien in the sidebar.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nickel & Dime

I'm cleaning up a strip I did in 2004 and I love it. I'd consider redrawing it, although I'd rather collaborate on the writing this time. I'm into the action. When I did my thesis the following year there was significantly less action, and I've approached long narrative in more or less that vein since, so it's good to go back to something pretty different.

Here you see the planning page for Franklin Roosevelt fighting guerrillas and a giant python in South America with his cryogenic power suit. He and the ghost of Thomas Jefferson are trying to destroy an ICBM with an anthrax cluster bomb warhead. I completed maybe half of the whole arc. In the unwritten half they fight an elite team of Calvin Coolidge ninja clones, and ultimately discover their nemesis in the undead lich-king that was once William Tecumseh Sherman. I don't know what the deal was with Sherman, but Calvin Coolidge ninjas makes complete sense.

You may notice that Roosevelt's cryogenic power suit looks like a robot; that's because that's what robots look like – it's a robotic power suit. Other Observations: Apparently everything I wrote five years ago was directly influenced by Ninja Gaiden, cause duh. And I was doing different things with onomatopoeia back then.

Oh man, what was a thinking in the second draft?? CHGGIU is a way better laser sound than ZKGGSH.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tidying Up

Just pulling some stuff from over the summer out of my sketchbook. I don't know about you guys, but I'm into werebears. I hear it's a science-fiction / fantasy sub-genre of gay erotic literature, but that's not the kind of werebear I'm talking about (although if I'm given to understand correctly, these stories are in fact protagonized by actual werebears). (yes, actual werebears). (if you do want to read about rugged mountain man love then check out Kolbeinn Karlsson's The Troll King; it was really good, and there's more to it than just that, like the part where the garden gnome man has a crazy acid trip / near-death experience).

I'm more talking about werebears like Tolkien's Beornings, but then again, Tolkien's hyper-androcentric world is sort of homoerotic, right? Don't jump down my throat or anything, I'm just saying. He does cast a long shadow, as I heard someone say on a forum. Why Lawful-Good werebears in Dungeons & Dragons?

Tolkien – all there is the say.

They can't all be down with the clothes-tearing, right? They can't all do the a-la Terminator "wups I'm all naked cause I came out a time-warp," thing. Especially if they're Lawful-Good. Or if their phone's in their pocket.

Come on, that's an elephant. Someone was like, "what's that supposed to be?" and I was like, "an elephant, yo."

The Hulk clearly exists in a world where you don't have your cell-phone in your pocket.

Life is Lies: Maybe We Do

My sense of what these aliens can and can't do changes a little bit every time I draw them. Also, this post snuck up on me, but I've got some good non-Life is Lies material coming here to Swimmy the Dish soon. Although I also have some really good Life is Lies material coming up, too; I scanned five galleys today, they'll be put into the queue at Tiny Mix Tapes before the end of the weeeeeee~k.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life is Lies: Volume Control

More coming soon, promise. I just need to have this cup of tea first.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Life is Lies: Bug Man

Man, I've got to get on some other projects. I've been working on business cards, but yeah. So, progress.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life Is Lies: Amplifier

I'm drawing a new one right now. I realized today I'm actually keeping up with my submission deadlines, that feels good; it shows improvement over my attitude towards essay due dates in college. ::blink:: Definite improvement.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Life Is Lies: London

Oh man, so few posts this month. I have to get on that, it bugs me when Life is Lies starts to stack up. It's been a busy summer, but really...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life is Lies: Tell It

I actually sort of did this to some guys on the street last night. I'm not a very aggressive person, so it felt good to out-joust a car full of douche-baggery with a little performative legerdemain. Skin-a-ma-rink-a-link-a-doo, skin-a-ma-rink-a-dee.

I'm actually kind of excited for the next two to post. My punchlines aren't always on by my reckoning, but yeah, it's moving.


It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but that's got its good aspects. I completed a commission today and it's ready to be sent. Here are some cleaning prints to help sort the plate out for storage once the job's done, or for when they get mired in paint:

I like sending these along as wrapping paper. I like superficially mimicking ukiyo-e, for one, and also the idea of sending customers a part of the process beyond the end result.

The order was for twenty cards, so they were printed as a special numbered edition (I didn't have twenty Wyverns to begin with, so – slam). If you'd like to place your own request you can specify all kinds of things (color, yes envelopes, no envelopes, plate; we can even carve new plates), just so you know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Life is Lies: Baby Eaters

Ooooh yeah, this went up earlier this week. And if you wait for me to tell you every-every time then you missed the second part of Visual Score (here; it's still there, don't worry).


My collaboration with Michael Clifford and the Small Rain has come to an end. We've seen all our current projects through, so bam. Until next time.

Man, this stamp... is. so. good. It's for adding that magic touch to each disc individually.

Inside cover to Michael Clifford's Aquarium.

And the outside – the paintings (inside & out) aren't mine, they're Edla Cusick's.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Captain Connecticut

My friend Beau has been working on a comic called Mime Hunters, which is apparently not posted, but it's amazing. He distributes them at shows. It's made me very jealous. I started working on a comic of my own: Captain Connecticut. There are zero issues so far, but hey. Captain Connecticut is the only survivor of the IPSS Fleetship Connecticut. He farms tobacco to sell to aliens, and when he's attacked by rocket ninjas he uses his gene gun to become super-powered and defend his flying space island.

It's pretty much the best idea ever. Now we turn it into comics.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The North Pole

I scanned this today to send to someone as a follow-up for an interview I had yesterday. It's pretty old, actually, and unfinished – the first eight pages of a twenty-four hour comic marathon (for which I was awake ten hours and asleep the remainder, clearly). The premise is that Santa Claus is a ninja, although that didn't really come out in the first section (unfinished scenes: fighting a giant pagoda robot and armies of ninjas; debriefing in Guantanamo Bay by the CIA, discussing Santa's origins as a Babylonian deity; etc). I should probably finish it.

If I don't get that job I can at least say I sent someone a picture of an octopus fighting an ape for professional reasons.