Thomas Novosel

blog for art, writing, and games

RAW

It was a dive bar with an air hockey table and 50’s monster movie posters for wallpaper. Despite this, the rural crowd liked to come here. The posters may appear to an untrained eye in the dark to be yellowed abstract patterned wallpaper. Or it may just be a stereotype; even fans of Universal Pictures get old and live somewhere. The fans here get a bar that smells like seventy-year-old roses and the glory days.

At the bar, in the bar, on a stool, my right-hand wraps around the pint glass. I take a sip of the cider and look up, no sports today, but Godzilla was devastating the countryside. At the doorway, past the bartender, I saw the bar owner Petey Walker. His hairless head could best be described as an onion in shape and color.

“HEY JONESY!” Walker shouted at me.

“Oh not much, just another Thursday night.” Seeing Walker’s face I drew another breath and belted it out this time.

“NOT MUCH, JUST THURSDAY AGAIN.” Walker caught it that time and gave a lazy wave as he approached the tap closest to me. His elbow connected with the glazed wood and stayed there despite a wince.

“AH! Jay! When are you going to capture a job that gives ya’ two days on the weekend?” He was close enough now that normal shouting would suffice.

When was I going to get a real job?

It’s not like what I did was anything good. I built and repaired rainwater collection systems for self-sustaining homes. That’s French for I’m poor and get hired to do weird shit. That means there is no day-off except the ones I choose not to eat. But I usually work those days too; the ones where I don’t eat much I mean.

What would I even do as a real job?

“When you start raising the prices around here I’ll consider it!” Walker would never raise those prices. Not in a million years. He sells cheap beer at cheap prices to keep people coming in. You would think that being the only game in town meant that you were guaranteed success. You’d be wrong. Not a lot of people are left around to partake in Cheshire Vermont’s finest booze joint.

“Well, I like seeing you around Jonesy. Not a lot of folks like good movies”. Godzilla ripped through the city.

“I just like to see the costumes Walker.”

“I know that. You loved Black Lagoon.” I gave a big nod and drew a long sip. Letting my belly get warm, but not too fast to let it get toasty.

“I do like the city in this movie too though. It’s so big.”

“No, it’s small Jonesy.”

“That’s just because Godzilla is so big. Everything looks small next to him.”

“That too, but it also is a mini-golf thing. A small place.”

“Miniatures?”

“Yeah, miniature golf. Everything was built small and is small.” Walker was watching me closely. I slid my empty cup forward and put another couple dollars down. Walker wadded it into his pocket and passed me another cider.

“Watch my drink Walker. Gotta’ pee.”

“You didn’t have to tell me J… I’ll pause the movie.” Walker looked up at the TV as I walked away. Licking his thumb and rubbing it against the bottom of the screen.

Looking up into the mirror, with water dripping down my face. I could see my face. I could see my eyes and my cheeks were so red. I couldn’t think straight. What was I doing here? Where am I?

Behind me, in the mirror’s reflection was Walker. Standing there in a Godzilla costume. I could see his face revealed by a small panel that had been opened on the costumes lower neck.

“Wake up Jay!” He yelled. His voice hoarse like he had been yelling the entire time.

Looking over to the door, the costume left my peripheral vision and in came another.

“Jonesy what took you so long?” Walker was standing there, bleeding out his nose and onto his whole arm. It took me a moment to collect myself. How long have I been awake?

How long have I been working? Is today Friday?

“Jonesy, you there? You’re looking pretty fucked.” Walker was stuffing toilet paper up his nose.

“Yeah, I’m here. What happened to your nose?”

“You didn’t hear?” No, I heard nothing Walker, my face was six feet deep into my palm. I shook my head and motioned for him to quiet down a bit.

SLAM!

The bathroom door whipped open and there stood an asshole. Not a big brown tear in the air, but Paulie Slimms. Black jeans and a backwards red hat held together by the sparsest moustache I had ever seen.

“WE CAN HEAR YOU DUMBASS!” Slimms yelled. He grabbed Walker by the collar and pulled him out of the room. I followed.

“Open the register and pay your bills.” Slimms pushed Walker back. A pair of feet were on the ground just behind the bar, soles visible. Not moving.

“Yeah, you want to still have this bar huh? Want some customers? Eh? Eh?” This one wore long hair and a pair of green boots. Dark green worn at the edges and gently dusted with sand. He was tossing glasses on the ground at the knocked out bartender.

CLASH. CRASH.

“Hey, asshole! Cut that shit.”

They looked at me. The guy who is exhausted and pale except for a cherry face. I stepped closer and Boots held out a hand.

“You’re looking sick. You should turn back around.”

I stepped closer. This time Slimms had something.

“You heard my associate here. Turn around and give it five minutes, then lunch breaks will be over.”

Another step. Now Boots had a knife. He came closer, cautiously. He marched over, blade out, and smiled.

“I’ll escort him back.”

Fuck. The blade cuts into my side. I drift for a moment. I elbow him across the throat, he goes back a step and I take a swing.

THUD. Went Boots.

KLING. Went the knife.

My knuckles are split, and I can feel the blood in my lips. I give a kick while they’re down.

My jaw is flung up and I see bright lights and black spaces. The ceiling has a black lagoon painting on it, how long has that been there?

My feet are held in place as another punches me till my guts touch my lungs.

A chair flies and stops the onslaught, a Slimms is on the ground bleeding. Back to my first target, each of my punches sends Boots head cracking on the floor.

“JESUS FUCK!” yells someone.

Free, I step to see that Slimms is starting to stand up. My shoe pushes his chest down and my fist rises above his face. His eyes reflect a lightning bolt that is about to strike, bolts of swollen meat cut by teeth.

“Stay down Slimms. Or you’ll wake up tomorrow unable to chew.”

Slimms head fell and his breathing slowed down.

The blood on my hands was first rubbed off on my pockets. Wet stains and smears of dark and darker shades of “reddish” went through and onto my twenty dollars.

“Sorry about the fight Walker. It couldn’t be helped.” I slid him the twenty as he leaned the bartender up.

“I’m taking Chet to the hospital. Look after while I’m out. Lock the doors.”

More spots in my eyes.

“What was that Walker?”

“Local boys, I pay them to keep bringing their crew over.”

Got to make ends meet some way.

“So there’s more of them?” I’m rubbing an ice cube across my hand.

“On Monday.” Walker stepped over Boots.

“I’ll take the weekend off.”

Walker kicked Slimms and left. I locked the door behind him, taped the boys up and looked out the window. No cars and no one walking around. It really is dead here.

I lay down in a booth and dream. I dream about being as big as Godzilla in a town as big as me.

Monsterary: Sun’s Flame Knight

An illustrated PDF of this creature entry can be found on my Patreon and is accessible to Patrons 🙂

A low hanging cloth with singed edges barely billows, despite the never-ending smoke that pours out of the pores across the glowing chainmail that wraps the figure. These chains bend under the heat and pressure of tightly fastened plates curved in a human form. The symbols smeared across the burned armor, appear by inhuman hands, no prints or flesh scratched these symbols.

The Sun’s Flame Knight burns in its armor tall and thin, a tightly bound furnace that pours out smoke and flames. Lights inside give an angelic look when observed in delirious thought. But at the edge of a horizon apart a viewer may see the whipping flames of a hell that has been condensed and weaponized. With only a purpose to wield the glowing blade of the First Stolen Sun in order to punish and uphold the Master Whisperer’s law.

Fear the warrior whose gaze burns long and without falter. Who moves with practiced grace that provides a speed that turns traditional swordplay into a barrage of swings that cuts the air as fast as a hummingbird beats its wings. Only pausing between furies to evaluate how best to eviscerate the enemy, then burn the evidence until it is blacker that space and indistinguishable in texture from the soil.

May the allure of a warm flame and a beacon on the horizon trick your heart into thinking the end to a tortured life is in sight. For even on the rivers of hell a warm flame dances at the final rest stop to the eternal destination.

Statistics

Type: high planar, angelic.

HD: 5

Armor: as Plate

Move: 35 feet

Intelligence: 16/20

  • Precise
  • 2/day: can make an additional action before any character at any time.
  • The sun’s flame knight is made of fire and speaks only in the sounds of whooshing wind and crackling logs. They can unite to a council meeting of other flames using a single finger as if it is wood burning. Burning the prime words (words that translate to all phrase and depths within their first language) into any surface.

Alignment: the sun is the lord, the flame the commander an ally. Any and all allies of The Nightlanders is a foe.

Tactics: methodical, careful with intent and thought. Fights enemies, retreat over death unless under specific orders or dire stakes.

Attacks:

  • 2 attacks per round.
  • Sunblade: 1d10+2; or heavy sword+2. Damage ignores armor as the blades searing light pierces all surfaces.
  • Crackling Frenzy: 4/day, Take 3 main actions on next turn. Damage on all effects is halved for these actions. Sparks fly from a gauntlets flourish, the speed gained through practiced movements comes at the cost of distinguishable tactics being clearly signaled.
  • Overflowing Flaming Tongue: 3/day, Spewing flames from the grates in the scorched helmet, target takes 1d8 damage per round for 3 rounds.

Defense:

  • Deflect: blade attacks against the knight that miss leave an opening, the knight does a basic attack at this moment, rolling twice and using the worst of the two to determine effect.
  • Burning Glare: A strong glint sparks off the shield, a reflection of the sun honed to a daggers point to pierce foes eyes. In sacrifice of a move action, a targets next action has disadvantage.

Special:

  • Can only be destroyed forever using the Sea King Mary’s tears.
  • The Knight glows orange like the embers of a fire in a shadowy forest. This light pierces holes from another dimension, from an age of fire, into the world we traverse. Over the soldier’s entire body, these portals are visible but send eyes and minds reeling into a white haze when stared into.
  • Just like the shining lights of hell at the end of the rivers of shackled flesh, the knight burns as a spiritual signal. A tower in the living world, a world unknown to them, with the trait of mortality which is alien in form and habit. Within 6 miles of the knight’s presence, but only at night, 1d100 dead turn to undead. Roll 1d100 for cities, and roll 1d10 for the countryside (unless reason for bodies to be plentiful is present).

Affiliations

There are some that the Sun’s Flame Knight is connected to, as they are a knight of their own realm and had to spend time in court. Fiddling and navigating the politics of those above and in command or against their own commander.

Flame Commander:

The commander is a solid flame that does not flicker but holds a curved shape with sharp edges. Its commands are issued as sternly as laws of nature and are expected to be upheld in a rigid fashion to how gravity brings apples to fall. A consistency is expected and if not met, punished by extinguishing a soldier. Squishing its heat until it is only coals, wiping away memories and thoughts before kindling the flame back to a young roar. Bringing executed soldiers back to life so that they can forget, cease to exist, and their own physical properties can be reused for another.

The Flame Commander does not care for the individual personalities of their soldiers. The only way that control is maintained is by puppeteering and threats of recycling.

The flame that heats each flame knight or soldier is linked to the flame commander, the commander holds absolutely still in their person in order to make its movements and silent commands known through manipulating the waves and flashes of light of those being controlled. At any point the flame commander can starve an individual linked to the larger flame of air and its energy that is shared. Making them so weak as to collapse under even the weight of their armor.

Unless this link is broken, and sufficient fuel is provided to maintain the energy needed to live, every soldier under the Flame Commander is chained to the army of Hell for all time.

Prime Tree Wood Chunk: the prime tree was the first tree from which all others sprouted. It has long since become lost to the soil, but some of the excess tree clippings that were not used to start the world’s forests were coveted and stowed away by Primordial Collectors. These individuals hide and catalog in personal collections away from prying eyes original progenitors of the world’s materials. They hold in hiding the original seeds which when planted create spiraling and widespread veins of gold.

First Stolen Sun:

Far back in time, before people were ever born or even could think of a name for the blazing beauties that stand ever present in the summer sky. With their gaze coming down and embracing every creature that would ever live. Before we knew the love of warmth and a breezy summer at a swimming hole. Where friends could jump into the water and not be cold, but refreshed so long that the memories of childhood could be a warm blanket in old age.

Before all of this, the Flame Commander was young and brash, there was no king and rulers in the planes of existence just warring bands of elements and essence. The war band of the young spark found the first sun and captured it in a net of stars. This is where the first stolen sun changed into its second form, that of a horse of fire, with the sun changed into a conquerable form the war band cast a spell of chains onto the horse. And it was lead to where the future throne for the Flame Commander would be erected, buried in a hole deep into the stone with only a small piercing faucet cutting through its flesh on one end.

With this turned on, the Flame Commanders weapon smiths can harness star fire to create sunblades. Swords that whip flames and make spotted the eyes of any enemy.

One day, someone may rescue the First Stolen Sun. But only a siege on the black citadel of fire in the volcano Matdrick could make such events occur. It is tempting though? To save a sun? The one that sparked so many others. Certainly the reward for such a task from the Council of Orion would be grand.

Sunblade: burning, blade, damage of a great sword +2 fire dmg. To wield this blade without damage or penalty requires an insulated stone gauntlet which only elemental weapon smiths can forge. If the wielder is made not of flesh, then the blade can be held if they can withstand the temperature (d4 damage per turn held). Spend a main action and choose 1 effect:

  • Next attacks damage ignores armor.
  • The targets next action has disadvantage. They roll twice and take the worst.
  • Fire breath: attack as normal, if you succeed instead of doing the damage of the sword, target will take d6 fire damage per turn for d4 turns.

Master Whisperer:

Lurking in the shadows of dreams and stones, the master whisperer speaks over and over again the laws unwritten. Slay for me, the cold voice groans. Every so often the fingers move like snakes in sand. Darkness clings to the pale skin as the void attempts to pull back the escapee.

My words are unwritten, they speak truths which will bury themselves deep into your being. Act for me. These are the rules the Master Whisperer lays.

Rules from the Master Whisperer creep in only when an individual has fought in 10,000 skirmishes, brawls, and melees. The bloodlust of those without blood but who only see it tempts the Master Whisperer who drinks what comes filtered through the earth and that was wrought of violence “in the name of”.

To some the Master Whisperer will make bargains… But to others, those of elements and essences only commands are uttered.

Heed the Call: At a stone after a long fight a murmur is heard. You are resting and blood pools into the dirt. A leathery voice speaks softly to you “Skin the hundred headed serpent Poison Fang, and give the skin to the Warlord Adam Kraith. Do this and I will allow you to speak once across time and space through the shadows”. If this quest is completed, the Master Whisperer will offer this favor once, for each other completed another is granted. The ability to speak a phrase through the shadows to anyone anywhere in the world awake or dreaming.

The Master Whisperer does this, because the harm will always outweigh the benefit, words from shadows are fearsome beasts of horror not advisors of good fortunes.

Content Consumer 2020 Report

Life is constantly consuming content at this point, whether it be books, movies, or games (analog or digital). The only alternative to consuming the content on this earth is staring at the sun, but even that is consuming. The glorious eye sweat and black spots across my vision inducing beautiful ball of fire in the distance.

What is this post then you ask? Don’t shake your fist at me! This is where I am going to list all of the content that I consumed (games, books, and movies). I will just update this post each time I finish something or consume enough of something to consider my hunger quenched for it.

I will try to put a one sentence review for each. They may not be reviews at all, but more like my favorite bits or a quote. I’ll return to this post and figure out my favorites at the end of the year. 🙂

Video Games

  1. Quake 3 Arena (5 hours, finished on 1/14); fun game. The single player is just a ladder of bot matches but it was a fun game to play through.
  2. Quake Champions (2 hours so far); this is just my bread and butter multiplayer game at the moment (Jan 16th). It’s a lot of fun even if I suck at it.
  3. Thief Gold (2 hours 25 minutes so far); so far so good. I suck at stealth though so I will need to take extra care going forward, also need to loot more to be able to buy mission supplies.
  4. Jazzpunk (0.25 hours so far); what even is?
  5. Doom 1 (5 hours 45 minutes, finished on 1/18); played on Kill Me Plenty. Fun game overall, it feels like I should have been at a higher difficulty though as the boss fights were easy when you hoarded BFG ammo and rockets leading up to them. I’ll have to try again on Ultra-Violence at some point. For this I played from Knee Deep in the Dead – Inferno.
  6. Doom 2016 (1 hour 30 minutes so far); This game is so much metal all the time. Trash cans banging against one another.
  7. DIRT Rally 2.0 (3 hours); this game has race-cars and is me against the clock which is pretty fun. Which is weirdly lower stress than if I were to be playing Forza Motorsports.
  8. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (7.5 hours); Got a SNES and a cartridge to play this game on for my Game’s History class. The music is jamming and the secrets are a plenty. A lot of this was played by my project team, but I am playing it on a different save in my off time.

Books

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

O Veggie Pizza (short story)

While I am not completely certain that this life is the one I want to live, I do know for sure that I can’t keep eating at truck stop diners if I have any intention of making this a potential life long career choice. The driving is good, but the gas is expensive and I’m sick of soggy burger buns. Which is why, today, I was glad to see that in the middle of nowhere there wasn’t a single diner, but just a lone gas station slash pizza parlor slash county bottle redemption center. The only food for an hour in any way was something different. I wouldn’t be able to sit in the comfort of reoccurring disappointing meals anymore.

Unless, of course, I decided to wrangle some of those loose chickens from the farm six minutes back. I smiled to myself as I pulled into the two-space parking lot.

Me, wrangle a chicken? My best chance of capturing such athletic birds is plowing through the gate and picking what remains out of the grill.

To my side I saw my truck’s neighbor, an antique milk truck I assumed. Its shape and massive tank gave it away, not much else would. All identifying markings had been crudely covered with poorly applied chrome paint. The only bit peeking through was an “O” in the name on the side, just barely visible through a thinner section of the coated portion of the logo.

***

Ding. Ding. Ding. I walk through the front door. An empty shelf is ahead of me and the attendant gives me a quarter of a half-hearted glance while hammering his thumbs across his phone. I take a seat at the nearest booth. I’m pretty surprised. The springs are good and the napkin dispenser isn’t rusted.

Neat.

There’s no ketchup, but there are salt and black pepper shakers, and one of those wire cages full of creamers and sugar packets. I pull out my phone and try to catch up with the world. It’s been a couple hours since I checked, but as is what sometimes is, I have no signal here. So, I snap a picture of the table and its neatly arranged “accoutrements” for later. The cross-country group will be impressed by the tidiness of this place.

The floors are spotless, the only smudges are the black marks where I scuffed the tile with my sleepy legs while on my way to my seat. I wonder where the waitress is, it’s been a couple minutes.

“Sir?” I said to the attendant. His tag said, Sleeve, no, Jacobson.

“Jacob, uh, is the server around?”

Without speaking or allowing the blue glow to leave his face, he picked up some utensils, then a menu and walked over slowly, about as slow as you’d expect someone who was distracted to walk. It was obvious in the past he’d stumbled and tripped around the cluttered room while performing the exact same task with the exact same distraction.

“Ah, thanks. So, is it just you here? Could I have some coffee please? Black preferred but I won’t ignore decaf.” I chuckle, something of a classic ground breaker for a more casual waiter to diner experience.

“All out.” He mumbles. Not to me, of course, but down to his hands.

“Ah, uh, well what do you have to drink?”

Jacob looks up for a moment, taking a look at the counter he had just come from and then finally looks at me.

“We have what’s in the coolers sir,” he says.

I look around and see a small cooler just under the empty scratcher boxes. I can make out the logo on the side. Not really a soda fan.

“Ah, I don’t really drink soda though. What do you have available?”

Jacob, who’s looking at his phone again speaks as he pushes his finger up the screen slowly.

“I’m not sure, but I know we have orange juice. Feel free to take a look and call me over when you are ready to order.”

In the cooler there is less than half a glass of orange juice left in a jug, three glass bottles of milk, a cola with a faded label, and what looks like dust in a beer bottle. Even at home I am uncomfortable with finishing off a jug of anything, so milk it is.

Returning to my seat I open the bottle and then the menu to see what I might have. The advertisements stand out a bit with their wild colors, which are uncomfortably bright as the sun spills through the shades and across the plastic cover. I spend a minute looking over the options. There are some clear and obvious typos, and at least three items which are the same thing described with different words and punctuation. The stuffed mushrooms seem like something I would not trust from a gas station or a bottle redemption center, so a big bowl of spaghetti with a white sauce sounds pretty good. I call Jacob over.

“Yes, I would like the, uh…” I flip open the menu again to make sure I say exactly what I want in the exact manner it is written.

“Yes, the thin spaghetti with white garlic sauce and for bread… the peasant bread. Is it quite hearty… or?”

“We actually sold the last of our spaghetti just before you got here…” Jacob then goes on to explain that a very midwestern family in a very 1980’s midwestern car, had, like any good American family, numerous kids who were young and picky eaters and so the pizza parlor has everything but the small amount of spaghetti that it stocked. Looking back down at the menu I order a medium vegetarian pizza, what I don’t eat can be “on-the-road-food” till I get to Oklahoma.

The broccoli will counteract the extra cheese, so I should be fine. I go to take a sip from the milk and pause with it just below my chin. I talk across the room.

“Hey, Jacob, this milk is fresh right? I hope its nothing like that cola in the back? Heh?”

Jacob looks up from the pile of dough he is rolling out on the counter and confirms that the milk is good. I take a sip and it is, quite good. Pretty heavy, but certainly fresh. No label on any of the milk bottles though, so definitely local and not full of any crap, except for what was on the farmer’s hand. But, in all honesty, it’s refreshing. This is exactly why I wanted to try somewhere new. The change of pace feels good.

It’s also nice to see your food get made to some degree, as long as it is a process which is easy on the eyes and not incredibly gory or so technically challenging that a layman might not understand. It gives you confidence in the quality of the food, a certainty that if you become bound up for a couple days it was an ingredient and not the method of preparation.

As Jacob sprinkles the toppings on and throws the pie under the counter into what I assume is an oven, I choose to partake in the provided reading materials. Looking to Jacob, I see that he has put on thick up to the elbow in length yellow gloves and is cleaning the countertop. I guess he’s the reason it’s so neat around here. I look down at the menu, holding it like a newspaper.

This establishment’s plastic protected “E-Z Menu Publication Advertising Group” brand menu is being sponsored by Sandra the Horse Training and Hutchinson’s Lawyer Sourcing Services with a page advertisement each. Another picture for the group, this one is sure to elicit a chuckle online.

Hmm, halfway down the left side is a daycare with a mascot, a costume which looks like a color edited and non-athletic wear version of the Highwayville school’s sports mascot pictured on the right, just above the hot wing stuffed Stromboli. The page opposite of the school’s flexing mascot features the same costume, but instead of a full getup, it’s just a person wearing the head part it seems. Its wire mesh eyes are pretty well detailed for a fuzzy photo print menu.

Then on the right…

Oh, I’m out of milk. My eyes slowly walk across the room and to the counter. Jacob is back at it again, pounding away at the screen.

“Is it okay if I have another milk?”

He nods. I walk over and pull another milk from the fridge and clearly, to all who may be watching, examine the bottle closely.

“So, whose milk is this anyways? Is it from the same place that truck in the parking lot is from? Smolleys? Or maybe, Smothers? Something with an O close to the middle?”

Jacob looks out of the glass wall that is the store front and then back to his phone.

“No.” Then he adds, “Milk and mail come in on Sundays. I only work Tuesdays. Hmm, yeah, and Wednesday, and today. The person who would know is my boss, Jamie. She works the days I don’t”

“I hope you don’t text and drive in that milk truck. It’d be a pretty dangerous load to even risk wobbling as far as the bulk of that tank is concerned.” He looks up and at me. No, he looks at the timer on the counter in front of me.

“I get a ride to work from my brother, so I don’t have to worry about texting and driving that much.”

Looking around the room and past the empty off-white colored shelving I see two doors, one with a small round window in the top center and a second with a small pale buttock exposed in an illustration of someone hanging a leak with their pants rolled and then scrunched up resting just above the laces of their shit covered boots. The heels dug into the dirt, more like mud, sinking. I’ve been sitting around here for a solid fifteen minutes now, so where is the driver for the antique truck?

“So, is there a bathroom… or…?” I ask.

“Yes, we have a public restroom, but it is currently in use. The guy who drove the tank truck outside had to use it after he tried the mini mushroom cap cheese-y bites, since we were out of spaghetti.”

Well, that makes sense but I didn’t think spaghetti would be this popular at a bottle redemption center slash gas station. First guess having been confirmed, I raise my bottle up and return to my seat.

Just above my table hangs, from a frayed loop of twine, a chalkboard sign. In playful scribbles it says ‘The getti was gr8!’. That must be the oldest of the youngest of the American family! I consider writing ‘I wish I knew! Coulda tried it!’ underneath but looking at the chalk is about as far as I go beyond imagining where’d I squeeze in the words before I hear a loud buzzing noise break across the room. A waft of steam comes up from behind the counter, a smell spreads and it’s pretty good.

It looks good too! Jacob brings over the pizza and places it on some oven mitts and then goes back to his “work”. It’s pretty gooey — a plus — but I decide I should probably let it settle rather than allow it to burn my tongue. I take out my phone.

Ah, yes, no signal or data, but there is a public wi-fi available so I just hop on that. And, it’s a wi-fi that doesn’t have internet. Crap. My hopes crushed in the hunt for a distraction. I should probably fold up the menu.

Carefully lifting the dish as not to burn myself, I fold the menu shut. The left first, not sure why they have a bruised teen watching kids, but who knows. It doesn’t make a good daycare advertisement, and at the very least it seems like a bad way to present a business. Probably good though for understanding why people get angry at kids I suppose. Then on the right, with their sports mascot-

Is that a sport? That’s…

“Jacob, what sport ish — ” As I speak I bring my eyes up from the menu and see that the lights are off. All that is in the air is the sunlight which has pushed through the blinds and careened off the falling dust. Each particle hangs in the air, surrounding me. In my breath they ripple slightly but remain in place. The shelving units are all pushed together and arranged behind the counter, packed up against the wall and each other so that they take up as little floor space as possible. The cooler hums. A soda, a milk, and a grimy jug of orange juice sit there in the cold white light.

Getting up from my seat, I walk toward the counter. No Jacob, no register, just the holes in the wood where the cabling would be strung. Feeling this area I pull back my hand and examine my fingertips. A light grey slime that is warm to the touch. Yes, speckles. Looking down the hole I see just shadows and what my mind assumes is the shape of a trash bin.

The room turns dark immediately. From some sunlight poking into the shadows to a deep black. I see a spasm in the sheet of darkness.

I feel a sense of satisfaction, my mouth waters as I chew. I open my eyes, the lights are on again, the room is clean, the specks are gone and at the counter there’s Jacob. My hands are coated in pizza grease and the pie tastes fantastic. It’s quite well cooked, not a single burn at all. Five out of five if I had the wi-fi to report back on my profile.

“Jacob, this pizza is great. What sport is thi-“

Wait, no that’s not right.

“Sorry, what I meant to ask was where did you learn how to make pizza? Just here or?” Jacob lets out a deep breath before answering.

“It was part of orientation.”

“Oh, that’s good it’s a thing you might use someday.” Turning my head away from him, I’m back at the table, back among the specks. The dust has been disturbed where my hand had reached out, grabbing at the air for a second slice. Each dot slowly moving outward from where I had clutched at it, at nothing.

Getting up, I move with some speed. I am unable to control my movements as I dart to the back of the store. The bottle return machines are exposed, their mechanical guts spilled out and onto the floor, and glass cracks under my heel.

The bathroom is vacant. I touch the handle and it changes to occupied in big red block letters, it spins and the handle twists until it is red hot. I pull my hand back as the metal rolls into itself and into the door as the paint bubbles then settles, but not before a slight ripple goes across the door, across the tile on the walls adjacent, and across the specks in the air. But they aren’t really specks.

I fall back and my forearm slaps into the shards across the floor, with complete control regained for a moment, I let out a sharp yelp.

“ACK!”

A thick white fluid drips out of each cut.

***

Uh, this food is making me parched, and ouch! My hand hurts! I’m out of milk again, weird, I could of swore I just got this bottle.

I did just get this bottle though. I better ask Jacob for some water.

“I’ll be right back,” I say as I stand up. I need a drink is what I tried to say. I felt my mouth move with different words than what I heard. I push myself to try to say something, anything, I get nothing.

I walk to the bathroom. It seems the guy’s gone. It’s empty so I reluctantly grab at the door handle. It’s still a gas station bathroom after all. I don’t want to trust a population in which most likely less than 10% of its members actually wash their hands after wiping their own ass.

Cupping at the hot water.

“Ack! SHIT!” My hand is beat red. The water must be too hot. I turn off the hot and leave the cold on.

Cupping at the water, I bring it up to my face and let it run down over my cheeks and then flow onto and past my lips. I gargle what remains. Reaching for a paper towel, I return to the mirror to wipe off the excess water, but in it I see my face. It’s filthy.

Small droplets of sand cling on. Trying to wipe it away is of no use. The more I pull off, the more sand is visible on my face. I cup the water again and try to soak it. Then I vigorously claw at my skin hoping to peel off the surface, and along with it the sand that must have become attached. I need to try again.

I scream, and in the process kick the cleaning supplies across the bathroom and as soon as my foot makes contact…

Darkness again. Now it’s the quietest and stillest silence I have ever heard, twisting and cascading into my head, rolling into my ears like a mudslide. This silence would have terrified me if not for the interruption of a small silver garbage can connecting with the wall.

CLANG!

It is deafening in contrast. Disoriented, I spin backwards and reach for a hold. I get a grip with my upper teeth on the rim of the sink.

FACK! THUNK.

My body whips against the door to the bathroom. Stumbling with blood in my mouth I reach for a handle. I have to get out of here. I have to get out of here. I can’t stay any longer.

But there’s no handle.

My hands slap across the door. Dull thuds at first, then a wet smacking, then a small crunching comes with each consecutive hit.

Clack. Clack. Increasingly louder, and more painful. CLACK! CLACK!

I have to get help.

Jacobs!

“Jah-cusb! JAH CLUBS!” I call out desperately, as the knives in my mouth scrape across my tongue on the back of each word.

“JAY COBBSH!”

Reaching at my face, I feel a loose sand roll down the outside of my hand. I can feel the pile growing between my knees. My posture breaks from panicked to every muscle in my entire body being wound up and tightened beyond possibility. I hear it so clearly, the sand pouring. I can hear it through my jaw, the vibrations adding an umphf to a sound I wish I could ignore. My hand is buried! I can’t move my hand. It’s trapped under the weight of the sand.

I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE ANYMORE!

***

A low grumble and then a bounce up, then down. The roads are terrible here. And the sun!

I pull down the visor, dust scatters across the air of the small cabin. I crank down the window and the wave of particles rush past me and blow out behind me as I go driving by. I have to watch that I don’t lose balance. I can’t spill the product.

“Let’s see what’s on the radio…” I reach out to the dial and turn through the channels. The remainders of the echo of a slow sob immediately drown in the static. I turn up the volume.

I’m nearly back to Streetwalk Township in Oklahoma, driving my truck to make some deliveries and having recently received instructions from dispatch that the company just got a new contract. It seems we’re taking over the delivery of fresh milk from Family Dairy (an out of state supplier).

Hurrah! A big win for local, Highwayville distribution co., and a good sign that I landed in the right career.

RPG Creature: The Black Ocean

This is a creature for fantasy and horror scenarios.

Note to reader: I am currently over halfway finished reading The Fisherman by John Langan. It is very incredible and seems to me to be like a weird-fantasy or Cthulhu-esque horror scenario with what is going on in the book. I won’t spoil it, but something that is talked about as just a very minor thing at the moment, not even being the big monster or the grand antagonist is a black ocean. The ocean seems incredibly terrifying especially to me, as it can be a vast entity of terror that fills any shape that can dare to hold it. This monster write up is partially inspired by the black ocean where the fisherman casts his lines in Langan’s book.

An unending rage

There are times when the adventuring party will go out to sea or to any body of water and will find a rocky section. This is not the black ocean. The fiercest hurricane’s waves are nothing compared to the depthless rage that is contained in this oceans waters.

How you can tell you have are at the black ocean:

  • Crashing waves that quake across the coast and over the water. Although there is no sign of bad weather or winds as there is a clear sky.
  • Peering into the waters you sense endless depth. Like looking into absolute darkness, you can sense the endlessness of it but cannot see past its walls.
  • On the edges of the water, off the coasts on the rocks lining its edges will be bone dust and shredded flesh. Any fish that is in this water has high chances that it will be shredded apart by its waves until it is entirely unrecognizable. Just bits of rotten fish flesh on whiter than any sands coasts.

Interacting with the water

No vessel can go over the black ocean, any that even attempted to would be likely destroyed or crushed within its grip. But, rumor has it that sacrifices to the ship of the dead may bring forth a vessel that will carry you to its opposite shore. Travelling on this ship is also rumored to take from you, because if the sacrifice is not large enough then the ship will crash itself on a pile of stones in its center. The water’s waves wiping whatever doesn’t starve off the rock in a single day, no blood even appearing in its dark waves.

When a creature not of the black ocean treads even a step into the waves. The waves will lick and grasp at the individual dragging them from an inch of water into the ground. Breaking bones with every wave’s crash, pounding their form into the rocks underneath the yellow foam coming from each pillar where waves meet. It appears like the sea is foaming at its mouth when someone touches it and is consumed. The body will very shortly, after screams and drowned words, be visible as the water retreats. All blood and liquids within the form have been removed entirely, a dried and desiccated corpse remains. Then a final wave will splash along the shore, dragging what remains into the depths below.

If anyone goes under the waves, it is absolute darkness. It is impossible to see through even using magical means. Anyone trapped under the waters will be spun and disoriented by the undercurrents. Unable to sense until the hands latch on, the murmurs of the dead bodies that have sunk below ring true as they reach up to latch onto those who find themselves with their head submerged. These bodies are lifeless, but the black ocean’s currents manipulate their forms so that they twist and snap to take perform its actions. Treat this as you would a very difficult grapple.

Learning about the ocean

The black ocean is only mentioned in the most obscure texts, and even then only mentioned in passing in reference to when the world was born. An ocean that was primordial and later enraged as it sunk below the world into a land filled with darkness, bare forests, and beaches that hold its edges in.

When the black ocean is discovered or comes up in play, here are some questions that could be worth answering or finding answers to:

  • What beast is rumored to live trapped beneath the black ocean’s waves?
  • Who has forged a path to the black ocean in the past?
  • What warnings are found carved into the stones at the black ocean’s shores?
  • What happened when a sample of water was taken from the black ocean?

Black Ocean – Stats

Type: cosmic force,

HD: endless.

Armor: why even ask? This is an ocean.

Intelligence: Unable to be determined. Any sign is incomprehensible as it is a force of energy beyond our scale. It has a sense of scale like looking and gazing at a night sky full of stars.

Align(ment): all are destroyed in the black ocean except for the Sea King Mary and the Ship of the Dead.

Attacks:

  • 1+(1 per character in the ocean) attacks / round
  • Crashing Wave (1/round per character caught): any characters in the black oceans water will lose 25% of their HP for every round in its grasp. No roll is made, attacks always land. A prepared defense will halve the damage dealt.
  • Dragging Maw (2/round): any characters in the water will be pulled 3x their movement speed further from the shore or any safety.
  • Truth Trance (1/round): target will hear disturbing truths and secrets about their lives. Secrets only the dead or themselves may know, these are dark enchanted words spoken in a speech that resembles the sound people make when they are drowning. Coughs and gurgles. This trance makes it so a character cannot move on their turn or act, the trance is broken when the target is touched or shook.

Defenses:

  • Attacks against have no effect.
  • Any items that touch the water have a 90% chance of being pulled in with unmatched strength, characters who hold these items will find letting go in time before being pulled a medium difficulty check. Items cannot be pulled from the water and have a 65% chance of being completely destroyed.

Special Qualities:

  • Entities that are aligned with the black sea have 6x their normal speed when moving under its waves.
  • Characters caught in the water cannot defend any attacks made against them. Any defense made will double damage done by the black ocean against them.
  • Character caught in the water cannot escape it without assistance from an outside force. Even that task would be treated as incredibly difficult, and any success would come at grievous costs.

Upcoming Projects!

Did you enjoy Runaway Hirelings, a 30-ish page tabletop role-playing game from whenever time ago? (It was 1 year Thomas omg.) Well, do you also want to know what I am working on getting shoved out the door with kisses and a packed lunch?

Here it is! This is the blog post for you. The one that has some descriptions and pitches of games and products that I have coming out in the near future. Including a game zine filled with shorter games that I have worked on, a Runaway Hirelings hack/reskin, and my artbook for 2018!

Office Murder Party

Day One: Drink coffee, gossip about packages delivered inside the office. Day Two: CEO starts rambling over the intercom at odd intervals about “Armor plating over the windows so that the drones who work in this office building can’t escape when I take it over.”

No one is certain what this means. Then, all of a sudden the windows go dark and the speakers crackle alive with a command, “Create a Civilization.” Now, as interns are trying to escape a wild mailroom boy, fuelled by panic and potentially drugs filtered in through the vents, you must make it to the first floor lobby. That is where freedom is.

Will you draw the Watercooler desert location from the Office deck? Or an Executive Challenge, where you are punished for not jousting in the portable escalators? In Office Murder Party, the Office deck is a deck of cards that brings forth areas to explore, emergency situations to intrude on whatever is going on, and Executive Challenges. This deck is assembled at the beginning of play by the players and determines what challenges come up during the game session, while the players control their office workers and introduce strange and troubled NPCs to this lockdown mega tower in downtown Desert Vista.

Office Murder Party is a role-playing game that is inspired partially by: The Belko Experiment, The Office, and Sunset Overdrive, injected with the default silliness of Runaway Hirelings.

Game Specs:

  • Single session game
  • 1.5 to 2.5 hour game session
  • 3-6 Players recommended
  • Original Game System

2018 Artbook

At the end of the year 2017, a book came out in paperback with a plain white cover with a little doodle in the center. This was a collection of my 2017 sketchbook pages and zines that I had put together in a paperback form.

Well, here we are, it’s 2019, and I have my 2018 artbook coming out. But this time it will be hardcover, 6 in. x 9 in., and it will have a ton of creative captions. Almost all of them have nothing to do with what the art is inside. These captions are just descriptions of some of the images in the book, not from when the image was created, but of what I see in them now as I am assembling this artbook.

At over 185 pages of words and black and white drawings, you can flip through stranger and more rubbery drawings that I have done, stripped from my personal sketchbooks, a lot of which have not been shared online. So prepare for some weirdness and check out this new artbook.

Page Spread from the 2018 Artbook.

Book Specs:

  • Artbook containing sketchbook art from 2018
  • With unrelated caption text littered about
  • 185+ page black and white hardcover book

My Assorted Art 2017 book can be purchased in print here and digitally overhere . My 2018 Artbook will be coming out on lulu for the print copy, and itch.io as well (did you know that you can follow creators on itch.io? Well you can! Follow me for notifications!).

Game Sack vol. 1

Here are some of the zine sized publications that I have previously put out. Game Sack is bigger than all of them.

I have written a few smaller games, some super short games, and others are of a sort of interesting length that I wouldn’t just publish on their own. So this is what I am going to do with them: give them layout and a little bit of art, then print out a bunch of them on a laser printer and make them into a zine.

It’s a zine of small games! Games about pancake dates, and tree spirits talking about whether they should reveal themselves to humans! A game where magic items make the adventurer! A game where you rush out the kitchen at the inn trying to get ingredients, so you don’t disappoint the master chef of the Whisper Willow Inn and Rest Stop.

Be prepared for a zine of small games of varying silliness and length. Some of which have been previously released through my Patreon, but here they are rewritten and with a little more polish!

Book Specs:

  • Short Game Collection
  • Zine (size and production)
  • Assorted Genres

This game will be coming out in PDF over here on itch.io and also drivethrurpg when it comes out. To make sure that you don’t miss it and get notified of its release, may I recommend subscribing to my mailing list? There is a form at the bottom of the page.

The Magic Hour

Brie Beau Sheldon (designer of Let Me Take a Selfie and the TTRPG Turn!) and Thomas Novosel (fantasy illustrator and designer of Runaway Hirelings) team up to create a fantasy adventure that takes place in an incredibly small town at the edge of the oldest segments of the forest…

People have been going missing at dusk. Surrounded by forests on the outskirts of the county, and just beyond the fingertips of the capital guards reach, something has been coming and taking people. Not a single glimpse has been caught of the perpetrators, but something needs to happen. A gang has moved in to investigate, but it is taking too long; everyone is worried and unsure of what to do. There aren’t a lot of lives to spare in a small town, and soon it won’t even be occupied by ghosts.

In this fantasy role-playing game adventure, players form a party and investigate the recent disappearances. Meet a wide variety of characters, each having things to say about what is going on. You will encounter the strangeness of a quiet forest, and soon understand that silence should always be concerning – especially when your ears are looking for a sound to hear from between the old trees. Listen carefully for something… anything. But dread what you suspect you may hear, a scuffle at dusk, followed by a buffeted wind.

The Magic Hour is an system agnostic fantasy adventure meant to either kickoff a new campaign or be one night of investigations and adventure.

Adventure Specs:

  • System Agnostic
  • Fantasy Adventure
  • One Session length

Follow me for updates and release information!

So that’s what’s next up from me and you can keep up with these projects and more by signing up for my newsletter and following me at itch.io. If you enjoy anything I’m releasing, please let me know! I love to support podcasts and blogs that feature my work and work by other awesome designers.

I am also always available through DM’s on Twitter, if anyone has any questions for me, or media inquiries.

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YouTube Videos to Learn With (and more)

Most of my drawing skills have come from YouTube tutorials and copying from art books (not specifics, just details and lessons I think is the best way to describe it). Thanks to this education I have seen so many videos that I would consider “okay”, bad, and some were just highly useful and inspirational. Just so important to alter how I draw and how I look at a piece of paper when I am drawing.

For a playlist to just go through and learn to draw with the videos that helped me, take a look at this YouTube link and watch forever (or however long the playlist is at the moment that you check it out).


YouTube Channels

Here are links to some YouTube channels that I watch very often for instructional material:

moderndayjames – often fantasy drawing instruction, breaking down cloth and perspective in short bits. Hit premium instructional videos are also worth it if you are willing to throw a couple dollars towards him.

Proko – tons of anatomy drawing videos which are realllyyyy good and easy to get through. His series on drawing hands is one that I would highly recommend going through.

James Gurney – excellent water color videos, sometimes it helps to see a master fantasy painter doing their studies in real life with gouache. A lot to learn just about colors from this guy, and plein-air and painting setups when you are on the go.

Marco Bucci – ten minutes to a better painting is a very good series, going over quick tidbits that’ll make your paintings better.

Scott Robertson – master teacher, just seeing his sketchbook flip through’s make me want to think differently about sketching with pens and markers. If you want to see the best example of what drawing each day does check out Scott Robertson’s flip through and chat with Chris Ayers of the “Daily Zoo”.

Drawing Tutorials Online – it is exactly what it says. High quality drawing tutorials, but what is actually the huge inspiration for me is the video playlist he has which is flip-throughs of his college students sketchbooks. 


Art Books I like

I have a fair number of art books on my book shelf but here are the big ones that I reference quite often for information and some explanations on how to draw things:

How to Draw by Scott Robertson – just wow, this guy knows how to teach perspective. I mentioned his youtube channel in the other tab, but this book is excellent and I would highly recommend it. The exercises within it really build your skill level up.

Bridgmans Drawing from Life – a classic for a reason, I know it can be a good learning tool but I think it is a much stronger tool if you have google nearby so you can look up more detailed pictures of muscle, so that your working off more than the sketches in the book as reference. This book focuses on drawing the body and getting the proportions burned into your skull.

Rebus by James Jean – sometimes I get too stiff in my drawings, so I look at some james jean art and try to grab at the curves he has perfected in his lines. Just google search his work or follow his instagram and you may like what he does. His book isn’t so much instructional but inspirational.

The Art of Ian Miller – Miller is one of my major influences, it is clear by what I started drawing with (technical pens) and what I started drawing in fantasy (towers and castles). This is more of an example of what I do, I keep my influences within reach. That way if I need to remind myself of what gets me really jazzed for my lines I can flip a book open or look up to a paper pinned above my desk and get back at it.

Any of Kim Jung Gi’s Sketchbooks – these books are just bound pages of people at various different angles as drawn by artist legend Kim Jung Gi. If I need a quick angle, he is likely to have drawn a sketch in pen. If I need to think outside the box, I just flip through this book and try to blend the feeling I get from looking at his stuff with the lessons I have already learned and use when drawing.

Other Websites

If it didn’t fit so much into the other tabs here is everything else, it involves more youtube channels and some unrelated but also sometimes related websites that I frequent:

Mateusz Urbanowicz – I love his watercolor painting videos, and I am really wanting his Tokyo Storefront watercolor artbook that he put together (a lot of his videos have him working on those works).

Art Cafe – artist interviews on YouTube that are really good and often times have artists showing off their technique while discussing their art careers and techniques.

Art Station – just a ton of high quality artists posting on one site that you can look across. Often good for some inspiration or to see what other people in games and visual digital art like to do.

The Art Assignment – fun art videos about art movements and specific art locations. Its pretty good and quite a bit of fun. Its kinda where I started getting into and learning about some art movements and conceptual art.

Parka Blogs – website that shows video reviews of art books and full blog post write-ups for each. Honestly, just flipping through the blog posts is a good way to get introduced to a weird variety of art books that I normally wouldn’t stumble across such as Illustrated Musings by Eddie Chau, which looks nice.

Pinterest – while alot of people are not a fan of posting their own work to Pinterest, I can say that I am a fan of just going down rabbit holes for art and style inspiration for projects. Again, stumbling across things I just normally would not find if I went to a library or just asked for artist suggestions. And with the help of a reverse google image search I can find attribution if it is online. Here is my profile in case you want to check out the boards that I have set up for inspiration.

Life Drawing – photoshow website that can provide life drawing pictures to work with and help with learning some anatomy and poses.

The biggest thing for me is having enough inspiration within a glance or a moments notice that I can use them to learn styles and details and tidbits. They can influence me in a direction towards whatever I want to learn more about.

Update and Future October 18

I don’t normally post on my website, but lately some stuff has been going across my mind. Specifically the latest news that Google Plus is going away, and since I got my start in fantasy illustration there and still would consider it a large part of my art experience. I want to talk about what is next for me and what I plan to do.

I started drawing with intent sometime in mid to early 2016, catching my first paid illustration commissions shortly after starting, I got incredibly lucky in that way. I released my first game that I wrote, did layout for, and illustrated at the end of 2017 (my game Runaway Hirelings that I am incredibly proud of). And a more recent development was this year I did my first convention table where I sold some art prints and books. Its been a climb and I have enjoyed working on all the projects I have taken on, sometimes I feel like I didn’t do as well, but I am still glad I took on what I did and met the people online that I did.

As for Google Plus’s part in this story? Its where I met artists in games, talked about some games, drifted away from games a little bit, reconnected with some art, drifted away a little bit, and was an active participant for a little too. It was where all of my tabletop role-playing game connections came from. A bunch of people seem to be spreading out across platforms, and I am unsure if I will end up following over to anyone of them. Or if I will just try to develop myself on a platform that I am already on. If I do, it may end up being this website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We’ll see since there is still 10 months until the circles of google+ break apart to dust and are gone forever.

Goals and Plans

Since the announcement of google plus shuttering its doors, I have had to think about what I want to do and where I want to go with art and creating game related stuff. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go with whatever it is I do?

The obvious first goal is to get to making stuff full time. I want to be able to draw stuff each day and have it go places and be somewhere where it can be appreciated at least in a way close to what I intend. That is why I want to have enough stuff together next year, to submit to art shows and solo show calls. I also have a card idea, a goal involving some form of video games, and another writing goal.

Galleries and Shows

I watch a lot of videos and try to take in as much as I can about art and theories about taking a part art and how to look at things. Since I am in what most people consider a desert for that type of thing, and I am still new to all of it. It means that what I know is basic and what anyone else who has google and just started reading highlighted blog posts and YouTube videos would also know.

But, I want to put together a set of stuff in the vein of a picture that I worked on this year, if I could put it all together maybe it would help me feel more successful with my pens and pictures. And when I have that set in frames and ready to present, I can at least have something to present and then attempt to show.

Why do I want this? I do and it’d be nice to talk about things that I draw for more than “it looks cool”. Also it would be nice if someone got something and hanged it up on their wall.

Cards and Tarot

As for art products as projects, I have had a passing interest in tarot and as similarly interested in how some artists put together illustrated card decks. I had thought about it previously a couple times when I was younger (I had a lord of the rings tarot deck that my aunt gave me when I was a younger child), and about the same time as I had a binge of internet google searching of custom or hand carved chess sets.

But what reignited my curiosity was reading The Art of Ian Miller book that I have where one of the pictures captions said Miller was going to use this one image of a haunted building across and atop these geometric pillars that spiraled around like a chaotic mess. Looking at that just makes me want to make a deck, to draw these pictures and put them in a deck so I can pin them to the wall. So that other people can have a gallery in their hands to flip through when they want dark buildings and a horror landscape.

I am working on educating myself on tarot that way I can get fully into it and make something that both is respectful of it but fulfills my creative goals and needs with drawing the pictures. If it seems that I can’t make the tarot work, then a deck of cards with cools pictures may be where it goes…

Video Games

Or as I often describe them in tweets and chat conversations “vidya germs”. I have reinstalled a bunch of game making software that I previously tried to use a ton of times throughout high school and shortly after, but I think I now have enough knowledge and awareness to at least try to make something small.

Which is why next year one of my small goals is to make a small game that is 2 hours long. It may end up being a game that uses just text. Or it may be a short adventure game idea that I was playing with (potentially making use of Adventure Game Studio and a bunch of digital tools I got in a big fat folder on my desktop).

Right now its looking like a game inspired by one of my favorite castle illustrations may end up being the one that I go with.

Writing Goals

As for writing goals? Beyond literally all of the other things that I am thinking and wanting to do, why would I want more? I just want to get a lot of stuff done.

Earlier this year I wrote a short story, just a bit over 3,000 words and I was proud of it. I thought it was pretty good. So, I want to write some more short stories of varying length; I definitely have enough stories that are half written or started that I could retouch and work on next year.

Assuming I don’t redo one of them between now and the end of the year.

As usual, my stories will be tied to weirdness and horror, or attempting to describe surreal stuff and what I think surreal is to me. Beyond just stories, maybe I can finish another game project? Something small and tight like Runaway Hirelings; hopefully I’ll like it just as much as Runaway Hirelings too.

Too many goals

Having so many goals and plans for things that I want to do may seem like it is counterproductive to getting work done and completing projects. It is, and it feels like it is sometimes. But bouncing around helps me a lot when developing ideas and concepts slowly towards some version of polish.

Will I accomplish all of my goals? Probably not. But I really want to do something different and break into my own space and do some new things.

Where can you find me?

And where will you find these updates and what not? Well, I want to put more on this website, so here of course.

I’ll also be on all the sites on listed on this page: http://thomas-novosel.com/about-me/

Runaway Hirelings

Runaway Hirelings digital and print cover.

Where to Buy

Game Stats

  • Preparation Required: The GM needs to read the rulebook, players don’t need to read the rules as long as the handouts are available.
  • Time to play: Somewhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the size of the group and the amount of time you have to play.
  • Players: 1 Game-Master, and 1-5 player characters (hirelings).
  • Digital Contents: Rules book PDF, Handouts PDF, lowres Rules book PDF.

About RH!

Runaway Hirelings is a tabletop role-playing game about hirelings escaping a dungeon, where the dungeon is created as they are escaping it by all the players and the dungeon architect (aka Dunarch, but gamemaster works as well). These hirelings have specific skills which are useful in specific instances, but fighting isn’t even an option they are so bad at it. So the trap-poker may just have to set off some traps as they go rolling down the staircase if they want to stop an ogre from pursuing them into the next room. 

This is a zero prep game, the dunarch needs to read the rulebook before play, and while it is preferred that the players taking on the roles of the hirelings read the rules text before play, they don’t need to because of how the character sheets are setup. Just print out a bunch of the hireling types, and a couple copies of the rules sheet (in the Handouts pdf).Q

Additional Materials

  • Player Handouts; this includes rules reference pages and character sheets for use in play. They do not go over the entirety of the games rules (which are required to play). And may be purchased via the links at the beginning of this post. Handouts can be downloaded for free from here.
  • Extra Sauce #1; Extra Sauce is some additional rules and mechanics or content for RH that I am releasing in little pdfs as I come up with stuff that I think is cool. This first one contains my final thoughts on Dungeon Templates and includes an updated version of the playtest 0.5 dungeon “The Needlelands”. You can get the PDF for free from here.
  • Extra Sauce #2; this extra sauce contains the weirdometer, some rules to help with adding cosmic strangeness and alien old ones to your game. Also contains a new dungeon template “The Temple of Al-Guratt” and a new hireling called the Candlekeeper. You can get the PDF for free from here.

Development History

This development history is written so that people who were not around when I talked about this game back on Google Plus can look through earlier iterations of the game before publication. I think, personally of course, that most earlier versions of the game were barely playable. But each version and draft was crucial to forming what would become the end product. My little silly fantasy game about trap pokers in caves.

  • Original Micro Game; Runaway Hirelings was originally written as a micro game for a fantasy game design challenge that involved making a fantasy rpg that didn’t use warriors, swords, or the traditional fare you would find in D&D inspired games. The original micro game can be downloaded here.
  • Playtest Version 0.2; this is the original playable version of the expanded game that was used for the first couple games of play-testing. The quality may be bad, but it is because it is a scanned version of my personal printout that I used. It can be downloaded here.
  • Playtest Version 0.5; this is a publicly released playtest version of the game that was put out as the first post on my Patreon to patrons. It pretty cleaned up, and much better, but still noticeably different from the final version of the game. It can be downloaded here.
  • Unrelated Development Videos; early on in development I started working on notes videos where I talked about some of the early ideas. While I didn’t continue the series throughout all of development, it still might be interesting to watch. You can watch them here.

The micro game was released in early 2016, early writing for an expanded version started a few months afterwards. All of the art in the final game was done in October 2017, the original art style that was going to be used was traded in for an art style that I was using while doing Inktober making use of a Pentel brush pen. Final notes were made and the game was released January 2018.

Media Links

  • The One Shot Podcast AP; The cool cool folks over at the one shot podcast played the game and recorded it. Its hilarious and a perfect example of the final release version of the game and how it is intended to be played. Part One is here, and you can listen to Part Two here.
  • The Bleakest Pyramind AP; I ran the game for a one on one session with my friend Tony Obert for a playtest of the game and how it would function in a one on one environment. I did record it so you can listen to it here if you want! That episode can be found here.

Influences

Runaway Hirelings was inspired by two games at first: Apocalypse World for writing style and rules presentation. And the tone of the character funnel from Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Sales Data

Observations that I can make based on some stuff that has gone on and how it impacts my sales:

  • Release month: 30 total copies sold
  • One Shot Podcast Actual Play: 22 total copies sold
  • The month that I changed the price to Pay-What-You-Want: 52 total copies (average: $1.70 ea.)

I haven’t played with a banner on RPGNow, or an ad on Facebook or anything like that. But I will update this post if I do that and get anymore information.[


This is my current spreadsheet breaking down some basic sales numbers for the game since publication.

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What am I up to, March 2018

It is March 11th! Stuff has happened! I am working hard! This is work. First the quick updates on stuff that I am doing that you can go check out RIGHT NOW!

Notifications:

  • Runaway Hirelings, my short tabletop rpg about hirelings escaping a dungeon after their employers die is out! IN PRINT AND PDF! Print + PDF over on Drivethrurpg, and we also have just a PDF over on Gumroad.
  • Monster Butts Volume 2 is out! You can get #1 and #2 in a bundle pdf purchase over on Gumroad, the second issue has a game by Brie Sheldon in it! So check it out! More monsters, more costumes, etc etc
  • Inktober 2017 zine! Its available in PDF over on Gumroad, go check this outttttt! Its all my ink drawings from 2017’s inktober. It is also in the compilation that is assorted art 2017.
  • Assorted Art 2017, my 2017 sketchbook art book contains a butt load of my sketchbook zines from 2017, monster butts #1, inktober 2017, and just a good 280 pages of sketchbook page scans from 2017. It is available in PDF on gumroad, or you can get a paperback copy over on LULU.
  • White Star Galaxy Edition! I did the layout for this might as well be star wars OSR game, galaxy edition is a big cobble together and revised version of the white star game and its various releases. You can get it in PDF + Print over on drivethrurpg, or pick up a print copy on lulu! Check it out, its pretty.

If your a fan of stuff that I make myself (Runaway Hirelings, Monster Butts, my zines, and art books), I recommend checking out my patreon! I give zines there that I don’t sell anywhere else most of the time. I also give print discounts for books that I made (not white star, not stuff that I get paid to do or am hired to do, just the stuff that I publish). Go check it out, I also give out small packs of for commercial use art on their to patrons. Which at this point the folder is feeling like it is getting bigger and bigger.

Here is an example of for commercial use that Patrons get to use:

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Sketchbooking and Making Art

This year I am hoping to learn more, study more, and just all around get better at what I do. To this end I am filling sketchbooks and drawing as much as possible, I also am looking and absorbing more art around me, through art books and the internet. Just yesterday I went to the frederic remington art museum and did a few pencil sketches quickly of stuff I saw that interested me. So I want to fill my books and learn how to paint. Here is a few pages from my latest sketchbook preview I gave to Patrons (shortened for the blogpost).

And here are some pictures of paintings that are WIP:

Sword Arms and Spellbook Brains

Each player has a character, that character is an adventurer, a collector of magical treasures. A hero with a hoard of treasures so large that their individual strength and power is defined by powers contained in enchanted boots and wizard hats.

Characters

To create a character do the following:

  1. Make up a name and choose whether you are a wizard or a hero.
  2. Roll 2d6 for each of your attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma). The higher you roll, the better you are in that attribute.
  3. To determine how many Hit Points a character has, roll 2d6+4.
  4. Each character has 6 equipment slots, each of these equipment slots can only be filled by magic items. Each of your magic items can be selected from a magic item list in your favorite fantasy role-playing game, or you can come up with each magic item as you need to do something. The limitations for magic items are endless, but they must have specific powers, invisibility boots are great, bottles full of wishes won’t work.
  5. For each magic item assign it to a tier, the tier that it is on is equal to the the modifier used for attribute checks when using a magic item. Each character can have the following items for each tier:

 

Tier 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Number of items 1 1 2 2

Magic Items

You can also just choose items off this list (player chooses what tier each item is):

  • Mini Mimic: A mimic on a necklace, rip it off and toss it onto the ground to have it grow to a full size mimic as your familiar.
  • Unipig the Man: A pet pig who can speak and mystify humanoids with its wild dancing. It can also talk.
  • Tenta-Boot: A single left foot boot that has a sticky tentacle which can stretch and move around on the wearers command.
  • 5 Eye Gauntlet: A glove which shoots lasers, a different laser for each of the five finger tips eyes.
  • Memory Hat: A hat which when activated can record the voice of a monster or character (its loudness, tone, manner, etc), the user may utter a sentence using a voice that was recorded. Once that sentence is uttered, the voice is no longer able to be used unless attained again.

Or items from the Assorted Equipment Art zine (free in PDF here).

Rules

  • Attribute checks: If performing an action without the aid of a magic item, roll 1d6+5 versus applicable attribute, roll under to succeed. Rolling over causes failure, in combat this means damage. If you are using a magic item, roll 1d6+(item’s tier) versus applicable attribute, roll under to succeed.
  • Attack rolls: If attacking another character or monster, roll 1d6+(5 if using a non magical weapon, the item’s tier if magical) versus the targets Dexterity. Rolling under the targets dexterity results in a successful attack, a failed attack results in the attacker taking damage, this is how monsters make attacks.
  • Damage: damage done by characters is the margin of success for the attack roll. Damage cannot be done by a character unless it involves a magic item being used. Monsters have magical defenses which cannot be countered without a magic item!
  • Death: a character dies when it has no hit points left, but if someone has a magic item that can resurrect characters…

Monsters

  • Monster Attacks: monsters make attacks when a character fails an attack, in these attacks monsters do damage equal to a monsters tier+margin of failure. Monsters can do attacks on their own as well, but for those attacks they must roll 1d6+(monster tier {ranges from 1st to 5th}) versus their targets Dex. The damage a monster does with this attack is equal to margin of success.
  • Making Monsters: use monsters from your favorite D&D or OSR book, give each one a set of attributes, trying to make them go from 1-12 for each one. Just eyeball it.

Example Monsters

  1. Goblin: a man who has an allergic reaction to emerald encrusted collar jewelry, but the jewelry is either locked onto their neck or they have gotten too large to fast to take off the jewelry. Their fingernails and fingertips no longer are there as they have tried to pick at the collar, they have fine bones for claws. HD: 1 DMG: d6

Notes

  • Turns: each character and monster when in combat has 1 turn for a round and go in order according to initiative (2d6, highest to lowest).
  • Movement: characters move 20 ft. in one turn, attacks must be made within range specified by magic item or that makes the best sense. It should be pretty obvious if you are close enough. Same goes for regular weaponry.
  • Healing: Characters can heal using magic items that have healing powers or by taking a short rest (returns 5 HP for a 4 hour break).

Episode 2: Altered Histories and Inheritances w/ Slade Stolar

In this episode of Castle Vomit, Thomas (thats me yo!) and the cool Slade Stolar (of Scablands Press and The Indie Hack fame) ramble on about the versioning of history and the various effects of inheriting the world.

This includes some silly examples and very vague adventure concept midway through the episode.

At the end we have Notes:

  • Red Markets by Caleb Stokes (Hebanon Games); zombie apocalypse poverty simulator the tabletop rpg.
  • Somewhere Lane from RPPR; super creepy Delta Green actual play from role playing public radio.
  • Moderndayjames; youtube art channel with the “Draw like a Gi” series. Crazy perspective art lessons.
  • Drawfee; tons of funny drawing videos, including knock off zelda character, knock off pokemon, etc.

Plugs (Thomas’ has a few stuff)

  • White Star Galaxy Edition; I (Thomas) did the layout for this star wars like white box OSR game book (its a pretty good sized tome).
  • Chromatic Soup #2; I (Thomas) did a few pieces of art for this collab zine from the chromatic soup community and Evlyn Moreau. It has hobos in it.
  • Thomas’ Art/Zines Patreon; I recently fixed up and snazzy-d up my patreon. There is also now a $1 tier if you just want to throw a dollar and get some art files to look at oogle.

Plugs (Slades words from Slades Mouths)

  • Dust, Fog, and Glowing Embers will be available to non-backers soon. It’s a sci-fi game set in the past, where all non-science and proto-science is real. And it’s also about defeating fascism.
  • ANNA-X66, a “real” PbtA game that I’m working on. It’s about being a soldier that takes orders from an artificial intelligence. Figuring that out is the key. Figuring out what it wants is key. It’s also about defeating fascism.
  • As-yet-unnamed 90s Vamps game – It’s not about fascism hardly at all! It’s about recreating a very particular 90s vibe of basement gaming without needing a 300 page rulebook and three centuries of lore. I liked Undying a lot, but I prefer collaboration that fails to competition that succeeds. I miss Vamps… Anyways.

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