Friday 17 December 2021

Orsa the Fearless

A look inside the Orsa the Fearless, the first Feature Pack for Crooked Dice's 7TV:FANTASY  

VHS Box Cover

Front cover is a duo-toned blue version of the original poster created for 7TV:FANTASY, in a tough VHS clamshell case which contains all the materials need to recreate the epic adventures of Orsa on your tabletop (providing you've got a copy of 7TV fantasy and some miniatures of course!):

Inside the VHS box

Profile, Injury, Trilogy and Artefact Cards

Injury Cards

The injury cards are a new rule expansion that adds a bit of barbaric 80s grit and gore to the game so instead of taking a normal wound and losing a health point, characters can have a broken lib, blinded eye, smashed jaw, cracked skull severed arm or crushed shell, each with it's own unique illustration.

Artefact cards

Three new artefacts drawn from norse myth - The Brisingamen, a torc of power, Gleipnir, a chain of might and wonder, and Skidbladnir, the boat that crosses land. The norse-fantasy world-building is supported with Profiles and descriptions of Jotun, Draugr and Svartálfar, and it's easy to see how Orsa could be used as a platform for an even larger nordic fantasy campaign.

ORSA logo

With a female lead, rather than the rough and contrasted with a fluid and smokey, art nouveau style 80s fantasy inspired logotype, letterforms should be familiar to gamers and fantasy literature fans of a certain vintage...   

The book also contains a couple of unique duotone illustrations by myself, featuring characters and scenes from the campaign:

Battle at the Farm

Terror of the Lichemistress

The campaign itself is a linked series of narrative battles that propose to emulate a series of 1980s fantasy movies that follow the adventures of the she-barbarian Orsa across the frozen nordic wastelands.  Each scenario also has a hand drawn isometric battle-map to help with table layout, and scenery placement.  

The full range of  Orsa: The Fearless products includes the Feature Pack alongside the miniatures designed for the game. 

Saturday 23 October 2021


Join the Legions of the Working Dead!

Rent-A-Ghost is a one page role-playing, comedy story-telling game about very odd ghosts doing very odd jobs, strongly influenced by 1970s children's television, improvisational theatre and scoffing sweets!

Each player creates and takes on the role of a peculiar ghost, hired by Rent-a-Ghost Ltd. to solve a problem for one of its many awkward customers. All the players help generate the situation, and then work together using their stupendously spooky supernatural powers to save the day, all while sharing sweets and trying to make each other laugh.

Madcap mayhem for 2-6 players. 

Players require 12 sweets (each) and a pair of standard 6 sided dice.

You can download the game, for free, on Drivethru RPG and

The design impetus for Rent-A-Ghost came from the observations on D&D as Mastermind, a ludological framework where one player (the Mastermind/DM) creates a puzzle (the code/dungeon) for the other players to solve, and flipping that over and flattening the hierarchy to the other role-playing extreme of parlour games, fairy tea parties, collaborative story-telling and improvisational theatre. Quite a radical departure from [ZHU] Industries usual output, but if GW can do Troll Games, then we can do 70s TV Impro Panto...

Some notes on the Dedications and Thanks.

Bob Block (1921-11) was the writer of the BBC TV series Rentaghost, the memories of which inspired the framework of Rent-A-Ghost.

Michael Staniforth (1942-87) was the unbridled talent that the central ghost character of the TV series, Timothy Claypole, who also sang the annoyingly catchy theme song.

Mark Fisher (1968-17) was a cultural critic who, via the electronica of David Sylvians Japans Ghosts brought Jack Derridas concept of Hauntology to popular culture, centring how historically idealised and anticipated futures continue to haunt the imagination and material culture. 

Keith Johnstone is a dramatist, best known for his work in improvisational theatre. His codification of the 'yes and...' rule of improvisation in his 1979 book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre gave rise to the central mechanic of Rent-A-Ghost, and his writing on  mask work was instrumental in the barebones character design of the Quirks and Kinds.

John Tynes is a game designer of the Puppetland RPG. I read this in a 1996 issue of Arcane magazine I got in a joblot of RPG stuff, and swiftly sold on. However, Johns game stayed with me. It's horror-movie Punch and Judy and grim-dark raggydolls, the central conceit of speaking in character and describing actions had a large influence on the playstyle of Rent-A-Ghost. 

Anyway, despite the incredibly ridiculous nature of the theme, the 'verb'/cost and 'yes/but'/cost mechanics provide a solid set of constraints for group storytelling, and I hope the game inspires some daft and silly fun around the table. Download Free at:

Let us know how you get on!

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  ouroboros 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


Thursday 27 May 2021

Otherworld Wood Elves

A look at some concept art for Otherworld Miniatures Wood Elves. 

The initial brief from Richard at Otherworld was for three figures of a small patrol band, armed with Spear, Bow and Sword and lightly armoured, (not entirely coincidently as the Elf entry arms them in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual) referencing Jes Goodwins 1980s Elves for Citadel Miniatures, especially the ME31 Wood Elves, Angus McBrides artwork for Iron Crown Enterprises Middle Earth Roleplaying and some other classic fantasy imagery, alongside Otherworlds established 'at ready' poses.

Being less than half a Brandybuck and something of a Gamgee, I've always loved Elves. My first Warhammer army was built around Goodwins Scarloc's Wood Elf Archers, so the theme was close to my heart. In keeping with the Otherworld range, I wanted to slightly update the look, keeping a lot of the 1980s design cues but updating the aesthetic, emphasising the fay-ness alongside the elves traditional connection to nature. It was also an opportunity to draw on some other Elvish influences, such as Moorcocks Vadhagh, and Tolkiens (being the creator of the contemporary fantasy Elf, after all) professed love of the Arts and Crafts movement and give them something of romantic 'celtic' air, clearly belonging to a culture grounded in the decorative arts while keeping them earthy and practical fighting types.

After some initial sketches and discussion, pencilled and inked drawings of three elves.

Wood Elf Inks

The inked drawings were then scanned into the computer, re-arranged slightly and prep'd with titles.
Wood Elf Swordsman

The swordsman, slightly approaching. Probably the most 'noble' of the three, with ornate studded leather armour. The jewelled cloak brooch, that might be reminiscent of Fëanor, the smooth, round jewel motif that I think emerged with Robert Goulds early 80s depictions of Elric of Melniboné, and carried right through by Goodwin into the 80s elves and into the wraithstones of the Space Elves or Eldar of 40k. It also echoes the Otherworld FA6 Ranger, suggesting perhaps a Stone of Eärendil and marking him out as an elf-friend. The leaf-shaped sword bronze-age design, and La-Tene influenced shield historically grounds him, and early-medievalism of arts-and-crafts. A grim, stern character. 

Wood Elf Spearman

Spearman, standing at ease, shield slung over his shoulder. A slightly younger, less experienced fellow. Leaf-shaped spear-head and decorative tooled leather knife sheath and wineskin, subtly referencing the elven carousing of the Mirkwood Elves in The Hobbit. Yes, Elfquest fans, he will have red hair when I get round to painting him...

Wood Elf Archer

Archer, readying bow, probably a game hunter brought along on patrol for practical purposes. The folklore of Elf-Shot, carrying over the tooled leatherwork, cloak and tunic of the other characters. Resisted the urge to make the bow overly ornate reflex curve but keep his shortbow a bit naturalistic and wild - suitable for hunting small game in woodlands.

Once the three drawings were completed, and cleaned up they were passed over to Paul Muller to base the sculpting of the miniatures on.

And now, in time-homoured Zhu Industries tradition, a few quick photos of the bare models, hastily stuck together with blue-tac in black and white.

Wood Elf Bowman

Wood Elf Spearman

Wood Elf Swordsman

As you'd expect, the models are crisp clean casts, with no flash or mouldlines at all. Paul Muller has done an extraordinary job of bringing the characters to life, capturing the weird slightly alien look that elves should have, and heroically translating the detail into more than serviceable form.

Plus, if you purchase several sets, with a little modelling skill and imagination the swordsmans round shield and spearmans leaf-shaped shield can be swapped repositioned and mixed and matched to create a little variety and form up a neat little warband for Frostgrave (Frostglade?) or a larger encounter group for Dungeons & Dragons.

Wood Elf Spearman 1

Wood Elf Swordsman 2

Wood Elf Patrol

Wood Elf Patrol ready to harass anyone foolhardy enough to accidentally step over the boundaries of their forested domain,  allow a merchant caravan safe passage though secret woodland trails for a tithe, clear out an encampment of goblin mushroom foragers, or arrest some dwarven lumberjacks for illicit log poaching and picnic interrupting.

And finally, here they are in glorious technicolour, expertly painted by Andrew Taylor:

WE40 Wood Elves

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this look 'behind the scenes' and like the final miniatures. The WE40 Wood Elves available from Otherworld Miniatures priced £14 for the set of 3.