Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Lurkers from the Deep

A look at some of my work inside the Lurkers from the Deep Feature Pack for Crooked Dice. A Feature pack is a series of linked scenarios, special rules and gaming elements, cunningly packaged inside a VHS cassette box.

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box front

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box open

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box contents

Lurkers from the Deep VHS box back

Laser cut tokens I designed for the game, produced by 4 Ground

Lurkers from the Deep Laser-cut Tokens

The objective tokens are based on the numerical keys from a Remmington Standard No. 6 typewriter - the model that H.P. Lovecraft used throughout his writing career. 

The original typewriter didn't have a 1 (one) key and the letter I would have been used instead, so hopefully the inclusion of a 1 sends historical purists into a blood-curdling rage. I'll probably paint my tokens in black metal and white to emulate the typewriter keys, but the lurid spooky glowing green is superb, and the fits the retro supernatural vibe perfectly. 

Another prop-like token - the control switch for the mutation chamber that features in the game, but equally any tabletop on-off status indicator. Has a bit of a pulp sci-fi feel, probably at home on retro-rocket ship piloted by Dan Dare or Flash Gordon as much as a arcane technology in a pulp mad-scientitsts lair.

One of the four hand-drawn isometric maps I drew for the campaign, one for each scenario. The architecture is based on the scenery models from Sarissa Precision that were part of the Lurkers Kickstarter, with detailed references to New England dry-stone wall and historical road-building techniques threaded throughout. Might do a separate post on the isometric maps another time.

The Incubator

My rough pencil drawings were transformed into 'production sketches by Ralph Keyes' to flesh out the film-production backstory of the scenario. A Freudian nightmare of cosmic proportions, an ever growing pulsating transformation chamber from the centre of the ultraworld, eerily foreshadowing the cinematic body horror of H.R. Giger and David Cronenburg, also produces the secret invigorating ingredient in every bottle of Fiskes Old Peculiar health tonic... 

Fiskes Old Peculiar book back

Faux prop-label for Fiskes Old Peculiar - in The Lurkers story, this is a soft drink brewed by a mad scientist that turns people into fish-demon cultists, which quite cleverly eschews Lovecrafts theme of racial miscegenation in the original Shadow over Innsmouth upon which Lurkers from the Deep is based. in favour of anti-junk food consumerism.  In my version of the 7TV meta-narrative, these labels would have been printed and stuck on locally produced lime and cola soda-pop bottles to promote the film serial at the local flea-pit cinema, in the tradition of the gimmicky promotional stunts of William Castle.

Ritual Tracker

The infamous, mind-altering, soul-damning Ritual Tracker. Used in the grand finale to chart the rise of the great Kutulu from his watery extra-planar slumber. Heavily influenced by William Fulds Mystifying Oracle Ouija-board with sigils drawn from from the Simon Necronomicon, for additional occultic laughs. Amusingly one of these sigils appeared graffitied on one of the boards on the windows of a closed down covid casualty pub shortly after I designed the board. As much as I'd like to lay claim for obscure guerrilla marketing tactics, the chances are it's just the local fish-god cult trying to summon their interdimensional tentacle worm faced bat winged overlord. Seems to have worked, because the pub has re-opened now, but I daren't go in, just in case their best bitter is in fact a mad scientists gene-altering brew...

Kutulu Rising

The Great Cthulu rising over Devils Reef, based on Andrew Mays amazing Great Cthulhu sculpt, one of several pen & ink and digital colouring depicting scenes from the scenarios, perhaps from an obscure novelisation of the movie, of the game, of the book. 

Lurkers from the Deep Feature Pack available now from Crooked Dice, as it is a scenario pack a copy of 7TV Pulp is required to get full use of the product!

Monday, 9 August 2021

The Vaults of sha-Arthan Character Designs

Some photographs of the pen and ink character design artwork for James Maliszewski's Vaults of sha-Arthan campaign, which for some time resided in my files as "Untitled Sword and Planet Project".

The world is something along the lines of Edgar Rice Burroughs, M.A.R. Barker, Andrew Leke, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Kirby, Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe.





The four humans were followed by three non-human character classes, which round out the player character options.




Unlike the Tékumel drawings I've been doing for James's Excellent Travelling Volume, the world is largely unexplored, so the briefs were very open, some visual references and perhaps a line or two of description and a discussion about haircuts

You can discover more about the Vaults of sha-Arthan campaign world and support and its further development via the Advanced Grognadia Patreon.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Unboxing 7TV: FANTASY

As 7TV: FANTASY has finally been unleashed upon the world, the dust from the ancient crypt has just about settled across the land I thought it's about time I took a look at the epic contents and the illustration work that went into the latest big box release from Crooked Dice Game Design Studios.

7TV: Fantasy Box

Full colour box. I wrote quite a lot about the cover, Jungian archetypes, the balance of the force, fantasy, pop-culture and photoshop for the 7TV: Fantasy development blog, so rather than repeat myself, if you're interested there's a deep-dive over there, along with a lot of other behind-the-scenes stuff.

So what is in the box?

Profile Cards

The box set includes 230 profile cards, framed by kind of decaying dungeon doorway.

The 7TV development team scoured the Fantasy genre, pulling out archetypes, and there is everything from Night Elf Matriachs (bit of an Oldhammer-ism there) to Dungeon Adventurers, to irate Villagers and grumpy Camels and everything in-between. The 7TV system is about matching archetypes, so everything is a 'counts as' select the template that best fits (and with 230 to choose from, there's a lot to choose from) pay the points cost, and off you go, which means out of the box, if you've already got a fantasy miniatures collection for Frostgrave (2nd edition, of course), or Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle or Warhammer you'll be able to muster forces and invade the world of 7TV:FANTASY straight away.

Most of the cards are illustrated with a photograph, either of an expertly painted and photographed Crooked Dice or Otherworld Miniature fantasy miniature, although one or two are illustrated by myself and other hands.  

Grimoires - Magic books

Magic is an near universal element of the Fantasy genre, and 6 unique Grimoire cards, each detailing a different school of magic and selection of spells. Each has custom, hand-lettered title and a sigil reflecting the school on a hand-drawn spellbook cover. 

Status Tokens

Blast Templates

For the on-table elements I took a slightly different graphic approach to my usual linework, combining colour stone textures and bold graphics. On the one-hand the textures are illusionistic, like mottled stone, becoming part of the scenery, and on the other hand purely iconic, disrupting the 'cinematics' of the tabletop while the rules infringe into the space of play. Warning - special effects in play.

Encounter Guide Cover

To advenure! The Encounter Guide is a collection of gaming scenarios. If the Profile Cards present archetypes of characters, the Encounter Guide presents archetypes of situations. Everything from saving the world from nefarious evil to a tavern brawl. 

Encoounter Guide

Wonderful miniatures photography from Kevin Dallimore.

Encounter Guide

As well as an illustrative border, showing weapons and treasure, the Encounter Guide also has a few of my linework illustrations. Here a typical Fantasy Tavern Table, maybe The Green Dragon Inn or The Mended Drum or Silver Eel Tavern, or  with hand raised pork pies, hobbit smoking pipe, mugs of beer, playing cards and other paraphernalia, shortly before it's thrown over by an over-zealous health inspector.

Trilogy Cards

One of the core narrative mechanics of the game are the Trilogy Cards which throw random events into the mix as play progresses. Referencing both three-act hollywood storytelling, and the Fantasy trilogy. The events are typically from the film/tv production frame, as the meta-narrative. Unashamedly referencing the  ouberous device from the cover of Michael Endes The Neverending Story a novel which similarly breaks the 4th wall, or integrates the books materiality into the fantastical narrative. Either way, if you can hear Limahl singing in your head just by looking at it, you now know why.

Artefact Cards

Two types of object cards, Artefacts and Maguffins provide props, weapons and devices, each has a small illustration as well as a custom border. As with much of the 7TV universe, many of the drawings are references to props from classic fantasy media.


As Maguffins work as objective tokens (sold separately), they can be represented on the tabletop, expertly brought to life by Andrew May.

Casting Guide Cover

Producers Guide Cover

Directors Guide Cover

The rulebooks, each has custom hand drawn border and a roundel device. The three motifs were inspired by Jeff Easleys trinity of covers for the 1980s orange spined editions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - featuring a wizard, a 'dungeon master' and pegasus vs dragon. Each twisted through my own sensibilities and encrusted with pop-culture references.

You can just see the dice (translucent purple - very magical) and counters (green!) that are included in the box set sneaking into the corner of the photos too.

Of course, what would an 1980s Fantasy release be without the merchandise? Alongside the games release, Crooked Dice have also dropped an excellent (even if I do say so myself) tr00 kvlt grimm and frostbitten fantasy gaming t-shirt (sold separately). 

Part of the world of 7TV:Fantasy are of course the what-if films and tv-series from a parallel universe that the games, scenarios and miniatures are based on. So to accompany the background text, I created two alternative movie posters for the game:

Orsa: The Fearless 'poster'

Orsa The Fearless, a female nordic, conanesque adventure romp (soon to be released a campaign pack for 7TV). Red Sonja is probably my favourite of the Conan movies (everybody is wrong about this movie, sorry) so it was great to re-imagine Renato Casaro's classic movie poster for Conan the Barbarian with a female lead, and right the wrongs of Arnold Schwarzenegger getting top billing over Bridgette Neilson. I also got the chance to play 7TV casting director and put Kathy Staff (Nora Batty) as a nordic wise-woman, which would have been amazing.

Dark Fortress 'poster'

Dark Fortress, an imaginary poster for the imaginary sequel to Krull. I actually imagined this as a Marvel UK comic book movie advert version of the imaginary poster for an imaginary sequel to Krull, but don't tell anyone. Krull was my absolute favourite movie when I was 10, it's got Brian Breslaw of Carry On fame and Todd Carty off of Grange Hill  in it, what other marks of greatness are needed? Oh yeah, a spinny blade of death,  a giant inter-dimensional demon-castle, and freaky humaoid alien armoured shocktroops that shoot lasers out of their swords. Such things fantasy games are made of.

So that's a wrap! Hope you enjoyed this quick look at my work on the 7TV:Fantasy box set, out now at Crooked Dice https://crooked-dice.co.uk/7tv-fantasy/