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.