Friday, 9 March 2018

Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half Elf, Halfing and Half Orc

After the success of the Character Class T-shirts, Games Sesh commissioned a series of drawings of archetypal player character races based on classic and modern Dungeons & Dragons and other old school roleplaying game and fantasy imagery.

Dwarf | fineliners ink on board
Dwarven wizard, with wide-brimmed pointed hat, casting fireball a horned-helmeted hammer wielding fellow in mail, and a bezerker 'punk' in black plate mail and a large axe.

Elf | fineliners ink on board
A elven archer with slender sword in an ornate scabbard, an Elven fighter in leaf-patterend scale-mail with cloak and ornate elven helmet, and an Elven magic user with a pointy hat and robes covered in arcane writing, preparing to cast an offensive spell.

Gnome | fineliners, ink on board
A gnome fighter, with studded leather armour, helmet and short-sword. A very lightly steampunk flavoured (tinker) gnome thief, with apron and rock hammer, examining a jewel (gnomes are good at that) along side a gnome illusionist in the process of casting a cantrip.

Half Elf | fineliners on bristol board
A Half-Elven bard with a greek lyre and renaicance hat, a half elven ranger with leather armour, cloak, drawing a bow, and and elven druid.

Halfing | fineliners on bristol board
A Halfling magic-user thief, with an unusual caterpult staff and snood, a Halfling thief smoking a goblin-faced pipe in a fancy waistcoat and a Halfing fighter with mail and helmet.

Half Orc | Fineliners on Brisol Bboard.

A Half Orc cleric with warhammer and heavy armour, a Half Orc barbarian with manica, top-knot, dual-weilding axes and a Half Orc assassin dripping poison onto a dagger.


As usual, thumbnail sketches were produced in a Seawhite A5 Portrait Black Cloth Hardback Sketchbook using a Rotring 600 mechanical drafting pencil. I find the small size convenient for sketching anywhere, and useful for not fussing over too much detail or being precious. The initial sketches are really to get ideas down - such as the hexagonal composition and general characters and poses. All were worked up simultaneously. 

After the initial rough concepts were complete and agreed, the drawings were pencilled at full size.

The initial pencils were drawn with a Rotring 600 drafting mechanical pencil holding 0.5mm H grade Staedtler Mars Micro Carbon lead and Stanley 12" steel ruler on A3 Windsor & Newton 250gsm extra smooth Bristol Board, erased using Staedtler Mars plastic eraser and inked using 0.05-0.08 Unipin fineliners, with a bias towards the 0.3 as the main workhorse, and Uni Posca 8mm / 2.5 mm, black for large areas and 0.7mm Uni Posca white for picking out highlights.

The artwork was then scanned using a Epson V370 A4 flatbed scanner at a resolution of 1200dpi, saved as a greyscale 16-bit TIFF then brought into Adobe Photoshop on a MacBook Pro, cleaned up using the threshold tool (usually set to 175) to remove greys and converted to a 1-bit TIFF, with minor tweaks and adjustments made using custom brushes based on scans of the previously mentioned pens.



Games Sesh have produced a series of T-shirts.

These are currently availaible to purchase as screen-printed on Black Gildan Ultra 100% cotton T-Shirts from Games Sesh and there is 10% off throughout March 2018 with code PALADIN10

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kosmostrom is Go!

The latest in an ongoing series of print-and-play roleplaying and skirmish game floor plans - science fiction themed Kosmoström Set One: Rooms Corridors, Doors & Furniture is now available as a PDF download via DriveThruRPG 

Kosmoström Set One (cover)
Kosmoström Sample Layouts:

Some examples of the kinds of floor-plans that can be created with Kosmoström:

Horsa Class Small Long Distance Trader
Twin pilot bridge, forward facing gunport, refectory and hibernation quarters

Hengist Class Light Orbital Platform
Airlock, administration room, control deck and storage rooms

Detention Block-H Deep Tharsis Panoptica Facility
Cell with single bed, Cell with suspended animation unit
Observation room with control desk, access hatch.

Sefugel Class Deep Space Exploration Vessel
Engineering Deck, Engine Room, Engine Inspection Hatch

Elesa Class Small Trading Station
Cargo Hold A with various goods, Airlock, Storage rooms


People often remark on the overall similarity between Planström to the visual language typography of Swedish flat-packed furniture company Ikea - which is an accurate observation the '-ström' are intended to be flat-packed, self-assembly definitions of interior spaces - the reference is an intentional pun.

Further to this, the graphic language of Ikea is an exemplar of a long standing design movement - International Typographical Style (or Swiss style). This style, relying on asymmetry, sans-serif typography and a strong grid structure became the dominant face of modernism, championing clarity and clinical mechanisation in graphic design from the late 1920s onwards, infecting everything from New York Subway graphic standards (1970) to the 1972 Munich Olympics, to, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the layout of TSRs Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1977), which, like Ikea and '-ström' share the use of the Futura typeface.

Cutable, open-ended floor plans for roleplaying games were pioneered by Games Workshop, and one of their earliest products were officially licensed Dungeon & Dragons Dungeon Floor Plans (drawn by the architecturally trained Albie Fiore, I believe) which provided the original inspiration for Planström, utilising modern digital distribution and home printing methods to increase availability and adding the innovation of cutter guides to aid in preparation.


Both Kosmoström and Planström share the same underlaying design ethos:
  • universality - usable across multiple genres and 
  • accessibility - low cost of entry, ease of use and visual clarity
  • flexibility - positioning of elements, scale and scope 
  • modularity - connects with other and expandable
Designed to be customisible with a minimum of effort '-ström'. Heavy black areas and colour is avoided to reduce the environmental and material impact of printing.

Visual Language

As illustrated in the example layouts, Kosmoström is designed to be placed on black board - the full-black negative space representing both unexplored regions (the unknown) and soild walls (the unknowable, boundaries of the known) both of which present barriers to movement and knowledge.

The tones of Rooms are light and open, with Corridors being darker in tone, creating a relationship between light and movement. The lighter the space the greater potential for movement - corridors restrict movement to a linear one-dimensional space, wheras Rooms afford planar two dimensional movement and the black affords zero movement.

Similarly thin lines are used to create a light tone which represents the grid to aid in measuring in movement, whereas increasingly heavier line defines objects and then increasingly resistant doors and then ultimately barriers. Doors then are breaks in the visual space - black lines across the open areas which connect and interrupt motion between the known traversable regions and the unknown.

Kosmoström design references

Universality in science fiction context is a slightly more complex set of vectors than in pseudo-medieval fantasy. The potential approaches to materials, construction and in an imagined future is a much broader and speculative field than the underground construction of an imagined past - which be it the fossilised interior of a dragon, a mesoamerican temple or a castle, these can inevitably be most readily expressed as drawings of aged stone.

Kosmoström then must necessarily narrow down the infinite options of the future and present a specific design sensibility. The initial inspiration is to move towards a generic, hard science fiction as a more objective univerality than genres such as the rockets and rayguns of sword and planet, or the skulls and chainswords of gothic science-fiction or the gangways and cubicles of planet sized mega-cities.  This aesthetic then is grounded by developments in aero-space technologies at the height of the space race of the 1960s  and informed by both the sleek white functionalist minimalism of utopian science fiction, and the slightly more aged and granular look of late 1970s space opera.

Core design references include:
Further examples can be seen on the Kosmostrom board on Pintrest.

Kosmoström element references:

Throughout Kosmostrom Sheet D: Furniture, there are a number of elements that reference both classic industrial design and set design that help establish a look based on humanist utilitarian futurism. Macintosh 128K | Tardis Console | Orac | Elite Cargo Canisters | Enterprise Consoles | Millenium Falcon Gunports | ZX80 | HAL900 | Vending Machines

Particularly of note are the signage arrows. These are set in Microgramma / Eurostyle Bold Extended - a typeface often used in science fiction and engineering contexts from the interface of the interface of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001 to the corporate identity of the Jupiter Mining Corp in Red Dwarf. These signs are intended to be placeholders or codes, but have references to vintage computing, hip-hop and graffiti pioneers  TAKI 183 | VHS 80 | RZA 69 | KRS 1 | RS 232 | CBM 64 an inclusion of the subversive vernacular, without which the aesthetic wouldn't quite be complete.

Kosmoström on DTRPG

Kosmoström Set One is available to download from DriveThruRPG priced  £1.99 / $2.77

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Megablast on Precinct 13