Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And Here We Go!

I think it's time to talk more about the artwork for the upcoming Grindhouse Edition. This is largely a retread of that big post a couple weeks back, except talking about specific pieces rather than in concept. If being vague caused such a fuss...

Most of the art won't be objectionable. I'd say the vast majority of art is simply going to be judged on it's execution, how evocative it is rather than how provocative it is. But there are a few other pics that I'm guessing will cause a fuss because they hit on hot-button issues: Sex, Drugs, Rock'n'Roll, Religion, and Violence.

Sex? The core idea of that piece is a frisky medusa. Luna went above and beyond the call of duty with the reference photos here. I've shown a prelim version of the art to a few people, and the reaction has been "HAHAHA!" but apparently I only know sick, sick people. But even they haven't seen what's being done with the statues. The hot debate will be whether this portrays necrophilia or simply masturbation. You're going to need brain bleach. This one's wicked with a wink and a smile, but it's also quite explicit. Cynthia Sheppard is handling this one.

Drugs? I already established that magic-users enter a dream-state when learning spells, so shoot up to reveal the cosmic truth! Russ Nicholson handled the junkie wizard in superb detail.

Rock'n'Roll? Yeah, rock'n'roll. "Why would rock'n'roll be objectionable?" you ask. Because that's what rock'n'roll is. Rock'n'Roll is rebellion. If it doesn't get the old farts (that's us, if you follow OSR stereotypes) up in arms, it's shitty Rock'n'Roll. It gets your kids dressing and behaving in ways that horrify you and it's the soundtrack to their sexual awakening. To facilitate this thrust of real rock, I made this piece my attempt to present some beefcake, with the bard Blackie Ritchmore in concert still getting the ladies gooey even at his advanced age (Sam Elliot and Sean Connery the templates). It features the gnarliest lute ever. In comparison to the rest of the pieces mentioned here, it's nothing that will even be noticed, but on its own I bet people would think it's pretty crass. Nicole Cardiff handled this one.

Religion? I predict some people are very much not going to like Amos Orion Sterns' new portrait for the cleric class. I'd describe it as a mix between 1640s England and 1990s Norway.

Violence? Well there are a couple of pieces that fit the bill because there is so much to do to the human body. Nobody is going to care about the soldiers having their faces chopped or their heads split in various pieces. The Tell Tale Heart piece isn't going to piss anyone off no matter the condition of the old man's body. I don't expect the full version of Flame Princess vs Slime Monster to cause outrage. Maybe it'll cause some vomiting if I'm lucky but I don't see it as being out of line. Haven't seen Sterns' pieces with the sword fight yet.

Vince Locke's zombie attack? Whole 'nother kettle of fish. This is the one that triggered that post from the other week and the one thing I expect to cause real problems. There's the line of good taste, and (as I was told) I not only cross it, I "waive at it cheekily as I gallop past." Because I think the line is in the wrong place entirely, if you compare how tame most RPG art is next to what is regularly depicted in other media (album covers, comic books, film, not to mention what's described in novels...).

There were implied story considerations for the piece, and this has nothing to do about who's more sympathetic - that was a long tangent I went on that didn't even apply to what I plan to present. The concept: "Zombies rise, hapless adventurers torn apart." The questions involved: Would it have more impact with two men? Two women? One man and one woman? And who gets to be the unlucky one who goes squish?

Now if zombies are coming from below, that's the lower body that's getting the attention, you're going to rip apart someone's lower body, that means the whole lower body. Zombies aren't going to skip certain areas for the sake of the viewer's propriety. So what to do?

While ghouls ripping off a man's ghoulies and going nom nom nom is grotesque, it is also old hat. I've seen so many damn movies where that happens, you know? It was truly shocking just the first time. And leaving behind the fact that they're genitals, visually the idea is not interesting. It's an external appendage, so it's no different on a nuts(heh)-and-bolts level than pulling off fingers. And "eat my balls" is good for a comedic retort, not the basis for affecting artwork.

But on a purely anatomical level, a woman provides a far more interesting visual spectacle when deciding that things are going to get messy. What's inside has to come out. I've only seen this sort of thing in two places - Eddie Campbell's work in the From Hell graphic novel, and Vince Locke's work for Cannibal Corpse.

I had to go with Locke on this, and I don't know that I would have attempted to get the piece done if he wasn't available. Locke, in addition to changing some of my ideas of what art was allowed to be when I saw those Cannibal Corpse covers as a teenager, has worked for Wizards of the Coast. For White Wolf. He did the art for A History of Violence, which went on to be adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film. If you're going to do something, you do it right, and nobody has both the history with this sort of art combined with the professional qualifications that Vince Locke has. I expect something quite special.

I can tell you it won't be any worse than this or this or this - album covers, the first two of which I have witnessed on display racks of US mall and big-box stores. For a band so underground and perverted they were featured in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The piece Locke is doing for me will be in an adventuring context instead of just random shocksplatter. If you can look at those pictures without losing your mind, then we are fine.

Yes, it is repulsive, it will drive away those looking for "family entertainment." People are already making games fully suited to those tastes so I needn't bother. Remember the idea that RPGs originally promised in the 70s? Or how we thought of them whenever we discovered them? "There are no limits. You can do anything you can imagine." Why would players buy into this idea if I don't believe it?

It's ball-out maximum overdrive with the art. We've got new-school properly educated digital artists. We've got the pen and ink artist who does flyers for local metal shows and shirts and even some album art. We've got an artist with legit old-school history and credentials. We've got one of the beloved new old-school artists. We've got a handful that are going to be beloved new old-school artists. And yeah, we've got the guy that can link 80s indie horror comics and the Oscars.

You probably won't leave it out on the coffee table but you'll show to certain people with that mischief in your eyes. "I can't believe somebody actually did that!" will be the refrain uttered in hushed tones. Hopefully with a "That's so cool!" following soon after. You won't break out this box to game with your kids, but you have friends that aren't kids and some of them will appreciate options that don't presume them to be fragile.

Yeah, I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing... but if I'm not nervous about what people will think, then it's not done yet. It's not good enough. Safe is boring and in role-playing, being boring is worse than being bad.

I want to blow your mind.

But some of you don't care about the art and presentation (or for my particular vision for it), or already have a box and you have no intention of buying it again. That's fine, and I will accommodate you. The updated free artless PDF will be made available when this goes to press (probably a little later than planned due to art delays, but ah well). For those of you who already have the game, the rules tweaks - the biggest change is the "skill system" being cut down to 10 skills - will fit on two large-fonted pages which will also be available as a free PDF. Your current copy of LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is not at all invalidated by this new printing. It's the same game.

And after that, it's Zak's book , with art by Zak, and how much more impressive are you going to get in a game book than that? And art ideas and format plans are gelling fast for Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown. Death Ferox Doom's presentation will be visually focused with over fifty pictorial handouts for players. And there are other projects I have lined up that I don't want to mention yet because it'll be embarrassing enough if this all crashes and burns without leaving half a dozen projects announced and abandoned - but I'll tell you my plans involve some of your favorite bloggers and preliminary agreements have been reached.

I want more stuff from Our People that is daring and different to escape the internet and the format and distribution limitations of POD. Stuff that is useful right now as real gaming material, and will also function in the future as worthy monuments to what we spent so much of our time and creativity on. I want to get some RPG veterans with no previous connection to "our stuff" involved. I want to bring new and unknown talent to the table. And I want my stuff out, too! I can do all of that, one step at a time, with your support.

Flame away.


  1. You sir are sick and twisted, but I like it. It is pushing me to get out of the staid fantasy tropes and outside my comfort zones of my own OSR project (which is kinda funny considering I used to do fliers for punk shows and comix). Thank you.

  2. I was talking to my fiancee about this. While she isn't an avid gamer, she "gets it." I was explaining the new edition to her and, although she might not care for the aesthetic itself, loves that people are doing things in a fresh manner. We then started talking about ways to expose new people to a game without compromising the integrity of the game itself. So, it looks like you're starting to achieve your desired effect.

  3. And there are other projects I have lined up that I don't want to mention yet because it'll be embarrassing enough if this all crashes and burns without leaving half a dozen projects announced and abandoned

    Is insect shrine of goblin hill one of these projects?

  4. Your supposition that a zombie mutilating a woman's genitals is some how a better historical precedent than a mans, less derivative etc., is so far beyond bogus it's hard to even begin. Just fucking say you wanted a image of a zombie destroying a woman's vagina (or whatever), because it's provocative, sexually charged, and that's your vision. The wishy washy hand-wringing is immature, defensive, and embarrassing.

    "But on a purely anatomical level, a woman provides a far more interesting visual spectacle when deciding that things are going to get messy." Really? not to me, I want to see zombies eat frat boy dick, that's my cross to bear, this is yours. It's your *choice*, not some scientific or aesthetic fact. Own up.

  5. It's not an aesthetic fact, but it is my aesthetic opinion, and I described how I came to that opinion.

    It is in NO way arousing - not to me anyway - so if that's what you mean by sexually charged, no.

  6. Keep up the good work -- am so glad I will get to buy the Grindhouse version!

  7. It's funny you should mention sex with a medusa. The Tunnels and Trolls solo adventure City of Terrors had such an encounter. Lights off! To prevent the PC from turning to stone. Oh, you had the choice to turn the lights on.

    And this solo was published in 1977.

    Now that's old school.

  8. "I'd describe it as a mix between 1640s England and 1990s Norway."

    I hope to hell it won't be black metal corpsepaint pasted on puritan because though some fans of 90's metal still think penguin masks were bees knees others kind of think them as sort of thing as kind very ankward and lame thing of the past, tempered with possible nostalgia.

    Immortal - Call Of The Wintermoon:

  9. Don't worry, I know corpsepaint is dumb. :)


    that does it, dude, fuck the grindhouse ediion....i'm out.

    if it were true black metal to use smilies i would place one here...but it's not!

  11. I'm almost afraid to ask as I will undoubtedly show my ignorance, but what in the hell is Black Metal? No, I refuse to Google it. Someone tell me in your own words.

    Heavy Metal I've heard of-Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, yeah, I ...get it, I guess. Black Metal--this isn't an Afro-American metal band thing is it?

  12. In 2010, "black metal" doesn't mean so much.

    Early 90s Norway, "black metal" meant a certain take on Satanic metal with people wanting to prove they meant it: death threats and attacks against bands that weren't "true," White Power heathenism, grave desecration, church burnings, murder, suicide (and the bandmate that discovers the suicide collecting bits of the skull to use as jewelry, possibly making a stew with the brains, and for sure snapping pics, and later the pic of the guy that had blown his brains out with a shotgun were used as the cover of a bootleg release...).

  13. Oh, so just like an average day in Pembrooktonshireville, then.

  14. I had to ask... and Norway of all places. I think I'd prefer it if it was an Afro-American metal band thing.