Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Cthulhu is not an octopus... Part 3

Further to my previous drawing (here) and my initial discussion about Cthulhu not being and octopus (here), below is another quick drawing:

Note the lack of tentacles (and suckers) - I've tried to depict what Lovecraft described as 'a mass of feelers'. I may have a few more tries along similar lines, but Cthulhu rarely sits still long enough for his... er, its... portrait...

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Edible Monsters - Part Three

This week's monster adds something a little crunchier to your diet...


MOVE: 15"
HIT DICE: 3 hit points
% IN LAIR: 15%
SIZE: S (18" tall, 1' dia.)
   Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Stelgwits are spider-like creatures that are most at home in cold, dark places. They shun heat and light, whilst their primary foodstuff seems to be water and other fluids that seep from stone and organic matter. Their many legs are arrayed around a central hub which contains their rudimentary brain, mouth and other internal organs. Fast and able to climb over most surfaces, they are very hard to catch and are usually hunted with nets. Anyone trying to grab a Stelgwit with their bare hands will expose themselves to the poison it excretes from its limbs, although this is not particularly powerful (add +4 to saving throw die roll). If a lair is discovered, there will be around 5-50 creatures of various sizes and in such cases their poison can cause 1-6 hit points of damage (if a standard saving throw vs. poison is failed). As Stelgwits are very averse to heat, proximity to flames from torches and similar fires will cause them to become paralysed. If subdued in such a way and then roasted on an open flame for 5 minutes, the Stelgwit's poison is driven off and its legs become edible. They are crunchy and have a strong savoury, nutty flavour. Consuming 2-3 creatures is enough to replace half a day's rations.

Description: Stelgwits are a pale yellow-white, similar to bone. When cooked, they become a deep reddish brown.

Next week: the Traitor's Hat...

Friday, 18 April 2014

Edible Monsters - Part Two

Ever wondered what the 10' pole in the Player's Handbook might be useful for? Well, perhaps one may come in handy when dealing with this week's monster...


MOVE: 3"
HIT DICE: 4 hit points
% IN LAIR: Nil
SIZE: S (1-2' dia.)
     Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

H'malo are rumoured to be the larval form of some larger monster, although no-one is quite sure which. They prefer to live in damp dark places, where they usually move around in small groups consuming slime and moulds. They are only particularly dangerous if not approached with extreme care, as they seem to be easily alarmed. Attacks, loud noises or sudden nearby movement will cause them to release a pool of liquid that rapidly evaporates, quickly filling a 3' x 3' x 3' area with a noxious, bluish cloud. This cloud causes 1-6 hit points of damage to any creature within it, although the H'malo cannot create another cloud for 4 hours. If more than one H'malo is encountered, each creature will release their own cloud after the first is triggered. Dwarves and other subterranean creatures have discovered that this defense can be negated if the H'malo is approached slowly and quietly, and then flipped over using a pole, spear or item with a similarly long (3' +) reach. If captured in such a way, the H'malo can then be eaten only after it has been immersed in any liquid containing alcohol (beer, wine, etc) and boiled for 10 minutes. This cooking will produce such a delicious aroma that there is a 20% chance it will attract wandering monsters if being prepared in a dungeon, wood or similar place. A cooked H'malo has a similar taste and texture to roast pork or boar, although a H'malo that has recently released its defensive cloud will taste particularly noisome - similarly, any H'malo (alive or cooked) exposed to the cloud will acquire this taste. Adventurers using cooked H'malo will find that it is a useful supplement to rations, extending their duration by 2 days per H'malo carried if kept dry. H'malo are difficult to farm because of their very skittish nature and propensity to contaminate each other should one or more release their defensive cloud.

Description: H'malo are a seemingly unappetising lumpy mass that is pale blue streaked with yellow. Its underside is dark purple. When cooked, H'malo become a yellowish pink and swell to become a more uniform blob of solid flesh that can easily be sliced or cut into smaller chunks.

Next week: the Stelgwit...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Edible Monsters - Part One

In your average FRPG there are always plenty of monsters that will readily eat adventurers. This is handy for the DM, but perhaps less so for the players. I started wondering whether the average dungeon ecosystem might also be home to things that adventurers could possibly eat. With that in mind, I've had a go at designing a bunch of creatures that may be a useful source of sustenance for those poor dungeoneers who are bored to tears with iron rations. But, as there's no such thing as a free lunch, each of these 'foods' will have to be treated with a little caution.

I've written them up in classic 1E Monster Manual style, which has also influenced the look and feel of the artwork. Enterprising DMs should be able to adapt them to their preferred system. I'd be very happy to hear about that!

I'll add a new monster each week, starting with the...


MOVE: 12"
% IN LAIR: 40%
SIZE: S (6 -12" long)
     Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Legend insists that Gourdbugs must have been created by a lawful good Magic User or deity, as they are such incredibly useful creatures. However, as Gourdbugs prefer to live and feed in caves and other places thick with ordure and waste, they can sometimes be found alongside other more dangerous creatures (such as Otyughs). Gourdbugs derive their name from the large sac that grows from their back, which they can burst at will and cover any attacker in a powerful glue-like sap if the creature is threatened or handled incorrectly. This does no harm to the Gourdbug, which grows another sac within 1-6 days. The sap not only has a pleasing taste but can be used to repair bowstrings, clothing, spear sockets and similar items, and is very resilient to heat, damp and cold. It can be dissolved by any liquid that contains alcohol, although this takes quite some time (2-12 hours). Careful hunters know that the Gourdbug must be picked up by its prong-like eye stalks and then gently swung back and forth several times, which causes it to retract its legs and go dormant. Dwarves often hang them from their belts by these stalks. Capturing a Gourdbug is a feat in itself, as they are fast and always try to keep their head facing away from any attacker. They can only be drained via an incision to their underside, which unfortunately also kills the creature but is the only way to preserve the taste of its sap. The sac itself can be removed, dried and used to store liquids, powders and other substances (even those that are poisonous, caustic or acidic). Dissolving the sac in a solution containing alcohol for 1 day causes it to break up into long fibres, which can then be spun for rough thread and stouter chord. A dormant Gourdbug can be kept for 2-8 days before inactivity renders its sap tasteless (although it always retains its glue-like properties). A 12" Gourdbug carries approximately 1 pint of sap, which can usually be sold for 15 s.p. or more. There are several varieties of Gourdbug, each with their own particular taste:

Red: sweet, sugary

Green: spicy, meaty

Blue: red or white wine

Purple: sour, pickle-like

Dwarves have tried to farm Gourdbugs for many years, but to no avail. Attempts to use the Red and Blue varieties as ingredients in brewing have also failed. The creatures seem only to thrive in particular environments and no-one is sure why only those in the wild survive. Adventurers using Gourdbugs as supplies for expeditions will have to carry a great many of them in order to fully supplement their diet, as 4-6 would have to be consumed per day in order to replace rations. Half-orcs find the taste of any Gourdbug very unpalatable and it is thought that this also the case for orcs, goblins, hobgoblins and similar creatures.

Description: Gourdbugs are streaked and mottled with various shades of their basic color. The insect-like parts of their bodies seem polished and robust, whilst the sac appears both fibrous and semi-opaque.

Next week: the H'Malo...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Artwork for The Lovecraft eZine...

Awhile back I had the chance to create some artwork for the latest issue of The Lovecraft eZine. The story that I was assigned to illustrate was 'The First Act', by Pete Rawlik.

After a few read-throughs, my initial ideas were skewed towards a film noir-like image, along the lines of the moodier work created by James Bingham. However, further read-throughs made me realise that an abstract piece of artwork would be needed, mostly because the story itself is a monologue where various imagery is suggested but not always defined; certain pictures are conjured up but details are kept more to a minimum. So, whilst I knew that someone was tied up and that there was the threat of a knife being used, the story didn't detail the whys and wherefores (i.e. were the characters in a room or a basement? Was someone tied to a table or chair?) and so I didn't want to suggest too much outside what the author had already implied.

That said, I did pick up on the idea of the knife, which in turn sparked off a few ideas about what could be the focus for the image. I liked the idea of being quite noirish with the lighting, and so took various backlit photos of my hand holding a knife:

I thought that it was also important to include some sort of visual reference to 'The King In Yellow', as this particular issue of the eZine features stories inspired by that book. I've always liked the artwork for original print of 'The King...', particularly the hardcover version and so wanted to show that in some form:

After various sketches, I settled on an idea that combined these various concepts:

The above piece shows the drawn image in the raw, just to show how things looked before the final image was put together. I wanted to have slightly organic lines radiating out from the central core of the image, and so broke these up into groups of smaller waves, all of which combined to make up a background inpsired by 'The King In Yellow' cover. The knife is chunkier and the hand is taking more of a concerted grip upon it, as the fingers are more tightly curled and suggest something a little more determined.

As I wanted to abstract things a little further, I composited the above drawing within a digital framework using some lines from Act 1, Scene 2 of 'The King In Yellow', which in themselves are oddly abstract:

You can see a larger version of this over at The Lovecraft eZine site. Hopefully it did the story some justice. The drawing itself was done with pen, water-soluable pencil and gouache wash on Bristol Board, the original being around 20 x 14 cm (8ish x 5 inches).

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Back in the saddle...

... in more ways than one.

Yes, I've not updated this blog for a while. This is all down to real life commitments, damn their eyes. Not that they've not been interesting in their own way, but they tended to eat up my blogging time.

Another saddle I've settled back onto is doing some actual playing of RPGs, made more interesting by the fact that it's with a bunch of people I used to game with from the 80s to the 90s, some of whom I'd not seen in over a decade. However, we seem to have hit the ground running and despite the fact that my refereeing skills are somewhat on the rusty side.

We've kicked off with a Call of Cthulhu adventure I've written, which needs some playtesting. CoC is always a bit more of a challenge to run so the aforementioned rustiness has meant that the first evening's play probably went a bit more slowly than I had planned. That said, I hope that I'll get up to speed with it as each week passes.

The adventure is set in rural England towards the end of 1923. An accident at a Cumbrian slate quarry has left two workers dead and several others recovering from the shock. One seems to have lost his mind, whilst the other is bed-ridden with some rather odd wounds. A local doctor (an associate of one of the investigators) has asked the players to try and help him decide whether there's more to the accident, despite a coroner's ruling of 'accidental death'...

Anyway, it will soon be too light in the evenings to play CoC, so we have plans for some other RPGs. Star Frontiers and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles are strong contenders (the latter was last played in 1987 and was left mid-adventure, and I still pretty much remember what I had plotted out). Since we all last played, we've amassed a fair few RPG collections so we have others to chose from: Judge Dredd, Traveller 2300AD, classic Traveller, Ghostbusters, Twilight:2000 (1st edition), to name but a few...

Should be fun!