Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Interview - Mike Tenebrae, freelance illustrator

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Mike Tenebrae, a freelance illustrator working out of his studio in Cape Town, South Africa. He's done work for such firms as Fantasy Flight Games, Pinnacle Entertainment and Modiphius amongst many others.

His unique style covers all kinds of things but the fantasy and horror genres stand out the most. You can view his work at Tenebrae Studios.

Hello Mike! Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us something of your history with gaming?

Hello and thank you for this opportunity! I have always had a fascination with roleplaying games. Growing up in South Africa in the 80s, the only D&D related product we seemed to get here was the moral panic. Otherwise I used to just pore over the adverts in my DC and Marvel comics. I guess I cut my teeth in roleplaying with Fighting Fantasy books and later the early Ultima games and Adventuresoft's 'Elvira' horror RPG titles, all of which had a huge influence on me.

What was it that got you into illustration?

I always loved drawing. I come from a family of artists as my aunt and uncle are/were both gallery artists who specialise in realism (my uncle used to paint for the natural history museum) so on my mother's side there was always an encouragement of the artistic pursuits. Both my parents loved books and I was fortunate to always be surrounded by them. I just wanted to so badly create my own worlds and monsters like the ones I grew up reading about.

Who’s work inspires you the most?

Wow, what  loaded question! I am influenced by so many great artists. I think the big 3 that got me into wondering about art as a career would be Denis Loubet, Iain McCaig and Malcolm Barter. Thanks to the internet I am able to call Malcolm a close friend, something I am thankful for everyday. His ink work, specifically in 'Forest of Doom', left a lasting impression on me. Denis' work for Origin, specifically the Ultima manuals fascinated me and Iain McCaig's illustrations drew me into 'The City of Thieves' completely in that I felt I actually lived in the city itself.

The old concept art site, before it died, was a life changing place. Thanks to Facebook I am still able to glean knowledge from industry legends such as Tristan Elwell, Armand Cabrera and Jeff "Wild Bill" Fennel. Those guys are amazing resources, although they will never admit it.

Your RPG work includes art for the big names in the gaming industry. How do you approach projects for such huge publishers? How do you plan your projects?

It's never easy and a continual learning process. I worked with some amazing art directors during some very difficult and transitionary stages of my life. Being a jobber I would go through periods where I would be chasing down one gig after the other, working multiple jobs at once and pulling all nighters. You submit the work, hope for the best and get critiqued. You then chip away and refine it and do your best to bring their vision to life. It's not always easy or an easy thing to hear, but it's part of the industry.

I wish I could go back and redo a lot of my earlier work...while working you are also always studying and trying new things to hone your craft and sometimes you learn so many things so fast through studies and returning to the basics that your old work becomes difficult to look at. I hope any of my past employers who may happen to read this will know how much I learnt from working with them and how much I appreciated the breaks they gave me in this demanding industry.

Do you have a genre that inspires you? What do you like illustrating the most?

I will always love horror, cyberpunk and fantasy and especially combining those in some way. Eerie fantasy like the kind of images found in 'Tasks of Tantalon' and 'Faeries' really sucks me in. I don't like too much exposition at times. I don't need to know why a bunch of dwarves would be running a pub in the depths of a dungeon, the fact that it's there and in the next room is a vampire lends the setting a surreal dream-like quality which is my favorite kind of fantasy setting. Things don't need to make sense or be logical all the time and I love throwing things like that into my pictures.

What was the longest, most intricate project you’ve ever worked on?

One I am still working on... or two rather. I am working on a core rulebook and bestiary for Greywood and am doing all the interior illustrations in traditional ink. Literally hundreds of different monsters. A dream project, but can be daunting at times. Sometimes having an open slate can be very intimidating. I am also doing several long term personal projects, such as bestiaries of different categories (forests, dungeons, graveyards etc) as well as my own pixel art driven ideas... which I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do with.

What’s your favourite piece of personal work?

Artwise? Nothing really! It's all so fleeting but whenever a client tells me how happy they are, it moves me deeply. The best thing I ever made is definitely my daughter. Though to be fair, that was a collaboration piece.

If you could sit down and illustrate something of your choosing right now, what would it be and why?

A room by room haunted house those Star Wars cut aways, but more close up and with more detail. With lots of hidden monsters and weird things all over the place for the viewer to find.
Why? I guess because I'm always in the mood for a monster...there's just not enough hours in the day... sigh.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Much more traditional work. While the PC is fantastic for speed and ease of use, especially in publishing. Nothing can beat the feel and experience of traditional work for me, I'm always trying to do more traditional work and hope one day to be doing that all the time... but having said that. I'm becoming terrible addicted to pixel art and working purely in pixels. Making sprites and isometric scenes is something I cannot get enough of now that I've taken the plunge.  I love making pixel cheeses and rolls and red apples... mugs of beer and jars of honey. If only I could eat them.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

WFRP News - Shadows Over Bögenhafen released in PDF

As I said before, I don't usually post news items but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever.

Cubicle 7 are releasing the classic adventure Shadows Over Bogenhäfen, and this is the Hogshead version that rolls the first two parts into one volume. Sweet!

“And at the appointed time we shall rise from our secret places and throw down the towns ans cities of the Empire. Our brethren shall pour forth from the forests to slay and burn. Chaos will cover the land and we, the chosen servants, shall be exalted in His eyes. Hail to Tzeench, Changer of the Ways – Njawrr’thakh ‘Lzimbarr Tzeentch!”
Excerpt from The Book of Transmutation

The Empire. Perhaps the greatest nation of the Old World, it has stood for two and a half millenia as a bulwark against the threat of Chaos. Down the ages – from the time of legend when Sigmar Heldenhammer ruled, to the peaceful days it now enjoys – the Empire has endured. Within its borders, the Emperor’s armies keep the peace. The Empire stands firm against the enemy without.

But what of The Enemy Within?

The Enemy Within: Shadows Over Bögenhafen is the first volume in an epic campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It is the definitive guide to the mighty Empire of the Warhammer Old World, full of background information covering the history, geography, politics and religions of the Empire, as well as invaluable material on starting and running the campaign.

And you can begin straight away with an intriguing and chilling adventure which introduces the players to the Empire, sets them on a hunt to seek out and destroy the heart of a demonic conspiracy, and brings them face to face with the corruption threatening the very foundations of their world.

This PDF combines material originally published separately as The Enemy Within and Shadows Over Bögenhafen, revised into a clear, easy to use format, as published in print in 1995 by Hogshead Publishing. We’ve painstakingly scanned every page, and created a PDF that maintains the appearance of the original. This does make for a slightly larger file than we’d normally produce, but on this occasion, we think it’s worth it for all the great First Edition feel! The PDF is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference.

We'll be bringing the entirety of The Enemy Within Campaign to PDF in the coming weeks.

Grab Part One, Shadows Over Bögenhafen at DrivethruRPG now!

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Core Rules and 'The Hiding Death', another free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

A while ago I released a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', based on the pulp science fiction adventure serials from the 1930s through to the 1950s. I found some free images on the internet and decided to have a go at designing a game that incorporated those images, as well as use it to test out my single die ODDS System.

In fact, if you have any feedback on the system then feel free to let me know as I'm working on a more involved game using the same rules. This free game is a great way to get it out there into the hands of gamers who know what they're doing with it so any thoughts would be appreciated. You can email me at farsightgames (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk.

The core game 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' is available from dropbox here, and the first adventure, 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four', is available here.

So, here's another adventure to be used with the game. 'The Hiding Death' is an adventure in a mysterious asteroid field!

Download the adventure here

'In this short adventure, the heroes must enter the slow moving Sanotron planetoid field to locate a missing Stellar Navy intelligence gathering rocketship, the Tracer IV, which was lost there recently. After being warned of strange goings on and the presence of pirates, they set out to find that not all is what it seems...'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure to help recreate the pulp action genre, giving players the chance to not only stand a better chance of surviving but also giving them the option to take more chances at feats of derring-do!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Story trumps rules

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising—Special Edition DVD
DVD cover to
Dorkness Rising
I was watching 'The Gamers: Dorkness Rising' (top movie, if you've not seen it) this week and this line sticks in my head - 'Story trumps rules'.

I agree with this to a certain extent, as in allowing the rules to get in the way of fun or immersion can yank a person out of the emotional involvement a game, but to ignore the rules too much takes away any sense of achievement and can make some people feel that they're just wandering through someone else's story. I thought about it more as I read some D&D forums as they talked about 5th edition, and a lot of the posters are very focused on how the rules work and how they interact with each other. In some cases I get the impression that the rules are considered as not just guidelines but strict, definitive instructions on what the players (and GM) can and can't do.

As a GM I've fudged a few rolls here and there for dramatic licence but I do try and at least stick to the rules in as much as the players don't feel like they're being led around by the nose, or that they feel that their rolls don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. If a GM has a definite idea of where he wants a story to go then the rules can get in the way so no doubt will be more inclined to fudge or ignore. I guess it depends on the kind of game that's being played, or the rules system being used.

Does story trump rules, or is it the other way around? Is there happy balance?

Originally posted January 2012

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today

I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever.

If you're a WFRP fan then you'll be aware that Cubicle 7 included a version of WFRP 1st Edition in their recent 2nd Edition Humble Bundle, which raised $150,000 for charity.

Well, now a full-on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today. This version is a very clean scan and is fully bookmarked. It also includes the colour plates from the Games Workshop edition. There are other PDFs in the works with a regular release schedule, but there'll be more details of those in the future.

On to the Cubicle 7 announcement -

We’re delighted to be able to bring the much loved First Edition of WFRP to PDF!

We’ve painstakingly scanned every page, and created a PDF that maintains the appearance of the original. This does make for a slightly larger file than we’d normally produce, but on this occasion, we think it’s worth it for all the great First Edition feel! The PDF is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference.

We released a version earlier in the year via Humble Bundle that did not have the colour plates of the Games Workshop edition, but this new PDF does have all those glorious colour plates we know so well.

Grab it now at DrivethruRPG and re-enter a grim world of perilous adventure!

Stay tuned because we'll be bringing more WFRP First Edition titles to PDF in the coming weeks, including the seminal The Enemy Within Campaign.

Why I began to shy away from complicated RPG systems

Tabletop RPG Dice Set II by jpneok
I began to get annoyed with complicated systems years ago when I had to spend six hours creating a character for Rolemaster under the watchful eye of the GM. When the game started I was killed in the first twenty minutes - I was backstabbed by the GMs damn NPC assassin! All that time in character creation, wading through books and choices and complicated rubbish that would make no difference to who the character was anyway and I don't even get to experience the very reason why I'm in the hobby; playing an RPG.

After that I was loathe to spend any longer than half an hour in character creation. That spread on to the rules themselves. Now, when I run a game, I just want simplicity. I want to be able to sit at the table for a four hour session and be able to have the characters ready in the first 20 minutes, spend the next few minutes making sure everyone is up to speed on the basics of the mechanics and then the next three and a half hours playing an actual game. Then we're sorted for the campaign.

I don't want complicated character advancement, either. Got points to spend? Levelled up? Right, end of session, ten minutes to spend/choose. That's that, ready for the next game. In fact, I'm not that bothered about advancement and would be perfectly happy to continue a game with what we have. Of course, that may not suit all players; after all, part of the attraction for some gamers is the ability to improve their characters over the course of a campaign so I'd have to be sure that my group were on the same page as me.

These days I'm much more focused on the story and you could say that any RPG system could handle that, but there's another factor that works against me: time. These days, with a demanding full-time job and a family, as well as other gaming projects, I just don't have the time to spend getting to grips with rules and creating adventures, let alone whole campaigns. A simple system gives me the freedom I need to not only get to grips with the rules at a moment's notice, but to be able to create a game without having to peruse rulebooks or agonise over statistics or balance. I can sit down for half an hour and have an adventure designed and statted and ready to go. I can even create a whole campaign in a couple of hours depending on the setting and group. That suits me just fine.

I do like my complicated systems as the detail can add so many levels to a game, but these days I tend to play in those games and not run them. Perhaps, when I have more time, I'll one day return to the realm of rulebooks with more than 32 pages.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Dice Men: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985

'A grey day in 1974. Three games geeks are thinking about sinking everything they have into their dream of starting a games company. They go for it, but in less than a year one of them leaves. The remaining two carry on and end up living out the back of a van as they can't afford to pay rent for both an office and accommodation.'

So here's a new book on it's way to us gaming fans - it's about the early years of Games Workshop and it sounds like a blast. It's 'A history of Games Workshop, not just the business narrative but the story of its founders and their journey, along with all the people they picked up along the way.

How did Ian and Steve do it? How did they get to that first Workshop store? What's the story behind Dungeons & Dragons coming to the UK, starting a whole new hobby? How did Games Workshop grow after that? It's now so big that it spans the globe. And along the way they invented an entirely new book publishing genre, too!'

There's a glimpse at Chapter 7 here, so you'll get an idea of what the book is going to be like. It's still funding, so get on over there now and get pledging!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sometimes I panic with my world building

travel map by vectorsmeHow to design a world that is, you know… different? I started to build a campaign world a long time ago for an aborted fantasy game, and I realised (about two weeks into it) that the world was simply boring. Boring, as in I had seen it all before. Reclusive forest-dwelling elves, grumpy mountain-dwelling dwarves, the usual stereotypes and clichés.

So I decided to mix it up – angry, dangerous elves, friendly outgoing dwarves, a greenskin race that’s not evil, just misunderstood. That’s original, right? Right?

Not, it’s not! It’s rubbish! I’ve simply flipped the standard views of the primary races on their heads and slapped them onto a geographically improbable land, based on a western temperate zone! And gave it a silly name! ‘Esumanara’, or some such rubbish. That’s what I called it. What does that even mean? It doesn’t mean anything! It’s a made-up word that’s supposed to be slightly mysterious and has been created to sound a bit like a fantasy word, or a snippet of a long-dead language I have no idea about. It’s a complete waste of time and doesn’t offer anything new other than some mountains might get in the way at some point; instead of serving vanilla in a cone I’ve served it in a bowl, and threw on some chocolate sauce in the vain hope that people wouldn’t notice that IT’S STILL VANILLA!

So where to begin? How do I make my world new and original? Can I even do that? Has every possible fantasy combination been covered by every game old and new? What races do I want to use? Do I even want to use established races? Why don’t I create my own? But won’t my own creations just be the same as established races but with different skins? What about cultures? Do I take the easy way out and base them on historical cultures, or try to create my own? But will my own have the sense of depth and realism as one based on an existing culture? What about the land? Temperate? Desert? Arctic? Do I want one kind of climate or a mixture? But then that’d be a huge place, right? The size of a planet? So how big do I want to make it? A country, a continent or a world? How big do I need to make it? How big do I want to make it? What age is it in? Antiquity? Middle-Ages? Renaissance? How about a magical steampunk era? How about all of them, all on a huge planet? Or a big country, maybe? How about magic? Is it Gods-sent, psychic, earth-power? Is there a lot or a little? Is it hated or trusted? What races can use magic? How many monsters? Locations? Cities? Towns? Islands? Mountains? Lakes? Rivers? Hidden locations that only one of the races that I haven’t created yet with a history I have no idea about can find with magic I have no idea even works?

What the hell am I doing?

Originally posted February 2012

Friday, 1 December 2017

A free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

A while ago I released a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', based on the pulp science fiction adventure serials from the 1930s through to the 1950s. I found some free images on the internet and decided to have a go at designing a game that incorporated those images.

The core game is available from dropbox here.

It was pretty good fun, I thought, so I've adapted an old adventure of mine to be used with the game. 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four' is an all-action adventure across a war-torn city. It's a bit of a railroad adventure - I originally wrote it back in 1997, so I like to think my design skills have improved somewhat since then.

'The players are instructed to take a rocketship to the Bakk solar system, land on the primary planet of Bakk-Alpha-Four and pick up supplies for the struggling Beta 1-8-6 Stellarstation. Falling foul of the war and chased by the local military forces, can they make it across the war-torn city of Calappa to freedom?'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure to help recreate the pulp action genre, giving players the chance to not only stand a better chance of surviving but also giving them the option to take more chances at feats of derring-do! It should last a couple of sessions and you may get some use out of it in your own science fiction campaign.

Download the adventure here

And tune in next time for another thrilling adventure


More Warhammer FRP news from Cubicle 7

Hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement we have further news about the upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, out next next year.

I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever and not only are Cubicle 7 teasing us with some gorgeous covers, they've also got Graeme Davis on board for a 'Director's Cut' of 'The Enemy Within' campaign.


Next to a certain horror roleplaying game mega campaign involving a mask, 'The Enemy Within' was my favourite RPG campaign, especially 'Empire in Flames' which was simply epic. Now, I'm not hot on reprints or restatted campaigns from ages past - they've already had their limelight, after all - and I'd love to see more original material coming out of the Cubicle 7 offices. However, calling it a 'Director's Cut' certainly hints at something extra to an already amazing campaign, so colour me interested/excited/curious about that sliver of information.

They've also got a cool interview with Tabletop Gaming magazine - you can see more details on their Facebook page here.

On to the announcement!

Yesterday we talked about the planned release for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition in mid-2018, and gave you the first look at the covers of the initial products. Today we’ve got some news about some old favourites.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition 

We’ve been working on bringing more of WFRP First Edition to PDF. We all love First Edition, and there’s just so much brilliant material that we want to make available in electronic format. The “colour plates” version of the WFRP 1st Edition core rulebook will go on sale this week!

Just like we did for the Hogshead Edition offered as part of the Humble Bundle, we’ve made a very crisp, clean, fully bookmarked PDF. It’s been a joy to revisit the game where our core team began their adventuring careers!

Fourth Edition design lead Dominic McDowall said, “WFRP First Edition was my first ever roleplaying game. Everyone working on the new edition has a deep well of affection for First Edition, and it’s great to be bringing it back!

“But we’re not stopping there. We’re creating some beautiful PDFs of the original WFRP super-campaign: the Enemy Within. Keep an eye on our newsletter, website and social media for more news!”

The Enemy Within – Director’s Cut 

This brings us neatly round to yet another exciting piece of news. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Enemy Within Campaign we’re going to be releasing an updated deluxe, “Directors Cut” edition of The Enemy Within Campaign for Fourth Edition!

The mighty Graeme Davis has joined the team to steer this ship (or should that be river barge?). The Enemy Within was one of the best-loved RPG campaigns ever made, and we want to give the shiny new anniversary edition it deserves!

We’ll have lots of news over the coming weeks and months, so make sure you subscribe to the newsletter and keep an eye on our website and social media!